When Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce first introduced the microchip in the early 1960s, they drastically changed the course of the computer industry by transforming room-sized machines into an array of mainframes, mini, and personal computers. Their chip was used to make computers. But it touched many other industries as well: education, transportation, manufacturing, and entertainment. In fact, the impact of the microprocessor on the life of the average person has been likened to the changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution.

Today, microprocessors are literally everywhere. And the number of chips being manufactured to meet an ever-growing consumer demand is enormous. More than a quarter of a billion microprocessors are built and sold every month.

But they are not manufactured for traditional computer applications. Instead, these chips are embedded in products such as washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, televisions, stereos, automatic garage door openers, microwaves, and cell phones. In fact, it’s difficult to name an electronic or electro-mechanical device in a home today that does not feature one or more embedded microprocessors.

There are approximately 50 microprocessors in an average middle-class American household today. Add a personal computer and that number jumps to 60. Add a car, depending on the model, and the number of microprocessors in a typical household doubles. In fact, on any given day, an individual might interact with as many as 70 microprocessors before lunch.

While microprocessors are found in household products, they are also present in children’s games, toys, and a variety of other devices. The recently introduced Segway, a self-balancing people mover, contains 10 microprocessors. The Mercedes C-Class sedan features 153 microprocessors and offers an optional satellite-based communication system, stock updates, and emergency assistance.

The most exciting thing about microprocessors is that there is no such thing as a “typical” embedded system. But they all have one thing in common: Embedded processors are being used by a variety of industries and researchers in a number of different ways to help improve the way people live.
To Main Article To College Homepage To University Homepage