Computers and computer systems
Computers and computer systems

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Computers and computer systems

3 Some facts about processors

3.1 Processor statistics

In Sections 3.1 and 3.2 you are going to find out a little more about one of the key components of a computer: the processor, which manipulates data according to a list of instructions called a program.

Here is a mini-quiz which explores some facts about processors.

Question 1

Which of the numbers given below is closest to the number of processors sold worldwide in 2000?

A20 millionB40 million
C125 millionD1 billion


The answer to Question 1 is D. The processor market is vast; it is estimated that around 1 billion processors were sold in 2000.

Question 2

Which of the numbers given below is closest to the number of processors installed in a BMW 7-series car in 1999?



The correct answer is C, 100 processors. The BMW 7-series manufactured in 1999 uses 65 processors. Not all these are used in the engine management system; for example the processor in the automatic transmission communicates with the processors behind each side view mirror, so they tilt down and inward whenever the driver puts the car into reverse gear. Also the processor in the car radio communicates with the processors controlling the brakes so the audio volume can be adjusted to compensate for additional road noise resulting from the application of the brakes.

Question 3

Which of the numbers given below is closest to the number of processors you own?



Perhaps your answer to this will vary from mine, which is C, 50 processors. If you answered A, just one processor, you may have been thinking about the PC you are using to study this course. However, in addition to their main processor PCs contain at least another seven processors. You also need to consider the domestic products you may own. There are processors in some toasters, washing machines, home entertainment systems, tumble dryers, central-heating controllers, video and DVD players, microwave ovens, electronic clocks, TVs, children's toys, computer games, phones, satellite systems and so on, and of course remember the ones you may have in your car. I quite quickly identified around 30 processors that I own, and if I thought about it for longer I would probably find a few more, but it was obvious that the total would be much less than answer D, 1000 processors.

Perhaps you got all the answers to the quiz correct; perhaps all your answers were wrong. It doesn't matter. What is important is that you now appreciate:

  • the huge number of applications that can use processors and hence how vast the processor market is;

  • that the market for processors is not limited to personal computers;

  • and that the market for processors used in personal computers is very much smaller than that for processors used in other applications.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371