What is an ARM Processor, and What’s the Big Deal?

You’ve probably heard of ARM processors a lot lately. They are used in all kinds of devices like smartphones, tablets, routers, and so on. I’m sure you’ve also heard why they are so great: They’re powerful, and they’re extremely energy efficient!

Well, so is my Intel processor in my desktop computer, frankly. On average, it uses about 9W of power (I measured), and it’s a quad-core chip!

Well, 9W is a lot for smartphones, which have very small batteries. But still, what is the deal with these mystical ARM processors? What exactly are they, and what makes them so great?

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The 3GB Barrier: Why you want a 64-bit OS

64-bit = GoodI’m sure you’ve all heard some hype about 64-bit this and 64-bit that. The thing I read the most is that a 64-bit operating system or piece of software is automagically twice as fast as a 32-bit one. Not so. Worse yet, some operating system vendors market their product as having an “advanced 64-bit architecture”, when the truth of the matter is that their OS is not fully 64-bit.

In any case, most people today are using a 32-bit operating system, but a surprising number have already switched to a 64-bit OS. Or in some cases, a quasi-64-bit OS…

There is one true reason though why you will actually want to switch to a 64-bit OS in the near future: the infamous 3GB barrier. Just what the heck is this mystical barrier, and why should you care?

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How Does a Microprocessor Work?

Microchips is purty!NOTE: Being a techie and an engineer, I’m often asked questions about how things work. These types of questions are the best, because as you might imagine, engineering types are generally obsessed with how things work. So, I have created a new category on my site here entitled “How Does it Work?

The first post in this new category is the answer to a question that a friend just asked me the other day: How does a microprocessor actually work?

Everyone nowadays is familiar with microprocessors. Everything now uses a processor of some kind: computers, MP3 players, cell phones, washing machines, food processors, and even some electric toothbrushes!

One question I get asked a lot is: how do these processors actually work? Everyone knows that there is a thing called a microchip, and that it has transistors. But how do you go from a bunch of ones and zeros to a video playing in the web browser on your cell phone? I hope to explain here in very simple terms how a microprocessor works without getting too technical – and therefore too boring!

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