(3) Big business. Because of their adaptability and price, personal
computers have made their way into the management information systems of large
corporations. Some organizations use them on a stand-alone basis. Others are
allowing their microcomputers to have limited access to a remote computer. Packages
exist to link microcomputers to larger systems. A few companies are building a
database. Organizations are still experimenting to determine the best way to integrate
personal computers into existing systems and are assessing the effects of
microcomputers on organizational communications. They are also concerned with
compatibility among corporate microcomputers and between microcomputers and large
computers. The biggest obstacle to developing first-rate distributed systems with
microcomputers has been the lack of software for this purpose, but this is changing.
(1) Development/history. In 1971 scientists at the Intel Co in Palo Alto,
California compressed 12 silicon chips into 4, including a single processor that
performed the arithmetic and logic functions of several chips. The processor held 2,250
transistors on a chip no larger than the head of a thumbtack. It was not hard-wired like
the central processor in a mainframe computer. Therefore, it could be programmed to
carry out almost any function desired, and (when linked to as few as four other chips
that contained memory, control, and input/output circuitry) it yielded the microcomputer,
an instrument as powerful as any mainframe computer of the mid-1950s. To provide
some perspective on the microprocessor let's compare it to ENIAC. ENIAC required a
vacuum tube to hold a single bit, eight tubes per byte, and 8000 tubes per kilobyte.
Today, a chip the size of the end of a pencil eraser contains the equivalent of tens of
thousands of the early vacuum tubes.
silicon: an element from which computer chips are made.
silicon chips: very small electronic component, or wafer, capable of storing
thousands of computer circuit elements.
(2) Function. At the heart of a microcomputer is a microprocessor. It is
the microprocessor that enables microcomputers to be so small. Since the
microprocessor performs arithmetical /logical operations and control functions, it is the
equivalent of the CPU in larger computer.
microprocessor: the CPU
of a microcomputer;
a tiny processor that fits
on a single semiconductor chip (original name, "integrated circuit," rarely used).