Understand Microprocessors By Looking at This Beautiful Blinking ‘Megaprocessor’

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GIF: Centre for Computing History

Pretty much everything that’s great about technology today is thanks to the microprocessor. Billions of them are manufactured every year and they are one of the many reasons you can read this fine website. But few people understand what’s going on inside that little integrated circuit. Here’s a crash course.

The fine folks at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge have a half-ton machine that blows up all of the little details happening in a microprocessor to a size that’s more easily inspected. It has been dubbed “The Megaprocessor” and its creator, James Newman, walks us through how it works in the video below.

Newman’s creation is cool enough to just admire it on its own. Using about 40,000 transistors and 10,ooo LEDs, it diagrams all of the various communications and number crunching going on inside a microprocessor in order to ultimately play a big ass game of Tetris.

To really grok the fine details, you’ll have to pay a visit to the museum itself and spend some time with The Megaprocessor. But I assure you, in a little less than seven minutes you can understand the basics of what goes on in a microprocessor well enough to fake it at a really nerdy party.

Since many of us can’t visit, I highly recommend the CCH’s Twitter account. It always has great old school gear and graphics to check out.

[Centre for Computing History]



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