When discussing how embedded systems operate, we often hear about integrated circuits and microprocessors. So, what exactly are these components, how do they differ, and how do they relate to embedded systems?
What is an Integrated Circuit
In the early days, computers were made using vacuum tubes that made up logic circuitry. Due to its large size and expensive assembly, the first computer was not ideal for use by the masses.
The invention of the transistor, which regulates the flow of current or voltage and acts as a switch for electronic signals, helped to compensate for those setbacks, but it still had its own limitations.
The invention of the micron technology inc (IC) helped revolutionize the use of electronic signals like transistors into a much smaller and lucrative design. The integrated circuit sometimes referred to as a chip or microchip, is a semiconductor wafer often made of silicon that integrates a collection of electronic circuits, including resistors, transistors, capacitors, and diodes that interconnect to perform a given function.
One single integrated circuit can include thousands to millions of such electronic circuits depending on its computing power.
Integrated circuits are very important in embedded systems design as they help revolutionize and improve how electronic circuits are used.
What is a Microprocessor
So, is a microprocessor an integrated circuit? The answer is yes, and it is considered to be one of the most complexes of its kind. A microprocessor is a computer processor that incorporates the functions of a central processing unit (CPU) on a single integrated circuit or a single chip. It is used in a computer system to execute logical and computational tasks so other external circuits, including memory or peripheral ICs, can perform their intended functions.