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Encyclopedia > Coprocessor

A coprocessor is a computer processor used to supplement the functions of the primary processor (the CPU). Operations performed by the coprocessor may be floating point arithmetic, graphics, signal processing, string processing, or encryption. By offloading processor-intensive tasks from the main processor, coprocessors can accelerate system performance. Coprocessors allow a line of computers to be customized, so that customers who do not need the extra performance need not pay for it. A Lego RCX Computer is an example of an embedded computer used to control mechanical devices. ... CPU redirects here. ... CPU redirects here. ... A floating-point number is a digital representation for a number in a certain subset of the rational numbers, and is often used to approximate an arbitrary real number on a computer. ... Graphics are visual presentations on some surface such as a wall, canvas, computer screen, paper, or stone to brand, inform, illustrate, or entertain. ... Signal processing is the processing, amplification and interpretation of signals and deals with the analysis and manipulation of signals. ... In cryptography, encryption is the process of obscuring information to make it unreadable without special knowledge. ...


Coprocessors were first seen on mainframe computers, where they added additional "optional" functionality such as floating point math support. A more common use was to control input/output channels, although in this role they were more often referred to as channel controllers. Mainframes (often colloquially referred to as big iron) are large and expensive computers used mainly by government institutions and large companies for legacy applications, typically bulk data processing (such as censuses, industry/consumer statistics, ERP, and bank transaction processing). ... A floating-point number is a digital representation for a number in a certain subset of the rational numbers, and is often used to approximate an arbitrary real number on a computer. ... In computing, Input/output, or I/O, is the collection of interfaces that different functional units (sub-systems) of an information processing system use to communicate with each other, or the signals (information) sent through those interfaces. ... A channel controller is a simple CPU used to handle the task of moving data to and from the memory of a computer. ...


Coprocessors also became common in desktop computers throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s due to CPU design limitations and cost considerations. The math co-processor was a common addition to high-end computers like the Mac II and most workstations that required the capability to do floating-point arithmetic, but until the early 1990s the demand for such capabilities was minimal. Another form of co-processor that became common during this era was the graphics co-processor, used in the Atari 8-bit family and Commodore Amiga. The graphics processor chip in the Commodore series was known as the "Copper." The first Macintosh computer, introduced in 1984, upgraded to a 512K Fat Mac. The Macintosh or Mac, is a line of personal computers designed, developed, manufactured, and marketed by Apple Computer. ... A computer workstation, often colloquially referred to as workstation, is a high-end general-purpose microcomputer designed to be used by one person at a time and which offers higher performance than normally found in a personal computer, especially with respect to graphics, processing power and the ability to carry... An Atari 800XL, one of the most popular machines in the series. ... Amiga is the name of a range of home/personal computers using the Motorola 68000 processor family, whose development started in 1982. ...


Eventually, the functionality of the math co-processor was of enough importance to be integrated into the primary CPU, eliminating the need for a separate component. The demand for a dedicated graphics co-processor has grown, however, particularly due to an increasing demand for realistic 3D graphics in computer games; this dedicated processor removes a considerable computational load from the primary CPU, and increases performance in graphic-intensive applications. As of 2002, graphics cards with dedicated Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) are commonplace. Modern (2005) soundcards are now being fitted with more powerful processors with more multimedia extensions to forther offload computer time from the host processor. An example might be the Sound Blaster X-Fi. In 2006, an AGEIA announced an add-in card for computers that it calls PhysX. PhysX functions almost like a math co-processor, in that it is designed to perform complex physics computations so that the CPU and GPU do not have perform these consuming calculations. It is designed to work with video games, although other mathematical uses could theoretically be developed for it. For album titles with the same name, see 2002 (album). ... A graphics/video/display card/board/adapter is a computer component designed to convert the logical representation of visual information into a signal that can be used as input for a display medium. ... 2005 (MMV) was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Sound Blaster X-Fi is a PCI sound card from Creative Technology. ... Ageia, founded in 2002, is a fabless semiconductor company. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Physics processing unit. ... CPU can stand for: in computing: Central processing unit in journalism: Commonwealth Press Union in law enforcement: Crime prevention unit in software: Critical patch update, a type of software patch distributed by Oracle Corporation in Macleans College is often known as Ash Lim. ... GPU may stand for: Graphics processing unit, a special stream processor used in computer graphics hardware Gosudarstvennoye Politicheskoye Upravlenie (Главное Политическое Управление, or Main Political Directorate) of the Red Army, responsible for troops morale and propaganda. ...


A coprocessor may not be a general-purpose processor in its own right. Some coprocessors cannot fetch instructions from memory, execute program flow control instructions, do input/output operations, manage memory, and so on. These processors require the host main processor to fetch the coprocessor instructions and handle all other operations aside from the coprocessor functions. In some architectures the coprocessor is a more general-purpose computer, but carries out only a limited range of functions under the close control of a supervisory processor. Note the difference to the term multiprocessor, which refers to a computer with more than one general-purpose CPU. Multiprocessing is traditionally known as the use of multiple concurrent processes in a system as opposed to a single process at any one instant. ...


Intel coprocessors

The original IBM PC included a socket for the Intel 8087 floating point coprocessor (aka FPU) which was a popular option for people using the PC for CAD or mathematics-intensive calculations. In that architecture, the coprocessor sped up floating-point arithmetic on the order of fifty-fold. Users that only used the PC for word processing, for example, saved the high cost of the coprocessor, which would not have accelerated performance of text manipulation operations. IBM PC (IBM 5150) with keyboard and green screen monochrome monitor (IBM 5151), running MS-DOS 5. ... Intel C8087 Math Coprocessor The 8087 was the first math coprocessor designed by Intel and it was built to be paired with the ass] microprocessors. ... A floating-point number is a digital representation for a number in a certain subset of the rational numbers, and is often used to approximate an arbitrary real number on a computer. ... A floating point unit (FPU) is a part of a CPU specially designed to carry out operations on floating point numbers. ... CAD is a TLA that may stand for: Cadiz Railroad (AAR reporting mark CAD) Canadian dollar – ISO 4217-code Capital Adequacy Directive Card Acceptance Device Children of the Anachronistic Dynasty Computer-aided design Computer-aided detection (medical) Computer-aided diagnosis (medical) Computer-assisted dispatch Computer-assisted drafting Coronary artery disease...


The 8087 was tightly integrated with the 8088 and responded to floating-point machine code operation codes inserted in the 8088 instruction stream. An 8088 processor without an 8087 would interpret these instructions as an internal interrupt, which could be directed to trap an error or to trigger emulation of the 8087 instructions in software. Machine code or machine language is a system of instructions and data directly understandable by a computers central processing unit. ... This article is about emulation in computer science. ...


Another coprocessor which was released as addon for a 8086/8088 was 8089 input/output coprocessor. It used the same programming technik as 8087 for offloading CPU from I/O operations such as transfering byte block from from RAM to peripherial device. But IBM didn't use it in IBM PC design and Intel stoped developing of this chips type.


During the era of 8- and 16-bit desktop computers another common source of floating-point coprocessors was Weitek. The Intel 80386 microprocessor used an optional "math" coprocessor (the 80387) to perform floating point operations directly in hardware. Weitek Corporation was a former chip-design company that originally concentrated on floating point units for a number of commercial CPU designs. ... Intel 80386 DX, 33MHz, foreground The Intel 80386 is a microprocessor which was used as the central processing unit (CPU) of many personal computers from 1986 until 1994 and later. ... Microprocessors, including an Intel 80486DX2 and an Intel 80386. ... A floating-point number is a digital representation for a number in a certain subset of the rational numbers, and is often used to approximate an arbitrary real number on a computer. ... Computer hardware is the physical part of a computer, including the digital circuitry, as distinguished from the computer software that executes within the hardware. ...


The Intel 80486DX processor included floating-point hardware on the chip. Intel released a cost-reduced processor, the 80486SX, that had no FP hardware, and also sold an 80487SX co-processor that essentially disabled the main processor when installed, since the 80487SX was a complete 80486DX with a different set of pin connections. While consumers may have resented paying for a processor that was essentially wasted when the upgrade was installed, this marketing strategy did allow increased volume of sales of 80486 family processors, thereby accelerating the eventual price reductions.


Intel processors later than the 80486 integrated floating-point hardware on the main processor chip; the advances in integration eliminated the cost advantage of selling the floating point processor as an optional element. It would be very difficult to adapt circuit-board techniques adequate at 75 MHz processor speed to meet the time-delay, power consumption, and radio-frequency interference standards required at gigahertz-range clock speeds. These on-chip floating point processors are still referred to as coprocessors because they operate in parallel with the main CPU.

See also: X87

Referrs to math-related instruction subset of Intel X86 family line of processors. ...

Motorola coprocessors

The Motorola 68000 family had the 68881/68882 coprocessors which provided similar floating-point speed acceleration as for the Intel processors. Computers using the 68000 family but not equipped with the hardware floating point processor could trap and emulate the floating-point instructions in software, which, although slower, allowed one binary version of the program to be distributed for both cases. The 68000 grew out of the MACSS (Motorola Advanced Computer System on Silicon) project, begun in 1976. ... The Motorola 68881 was a floating-point coprocessor chip that was utilized in some computer systems that used the 68020 or 68030 CPU. The addition of the 68881 chip added substantial cost to the computer, but added a floating point unit that could rapidly perform floating point math calculations. ...


Other coprocessors

  • Using FPGA (field-programmable gate arrays), custom coprocessors can be created for acceleration of particular processing tasks such as digital signal processing.
  • Sometimes an entire computer is made out of coprocessors instead of a single CPU. This is the case for the Nintendo 64 video game console, for example, as well as the PlayStation 2 whose Emotion Engine is equipped with two vector units.

  Results from FactBites:
 
Coprocessor - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1040 words)
Operations performed by the coprocessor may be floating point arithmetic, graphics, signal processing, string processing, or encryption.
Coprocessors were first seen on mainframe computers, where they added additional "optional" functionality such as floating point math support.
Another coprocessor which was released as addon for a 8086/8088 was 8089 input/output coprocessor.
The Math Coprocessor - PC ComputerNotes (340 words)
The Math Coprocessor is a second processor in your computer that does nothing but number crunching for the system.
The advantage was recognized right from the beginning, and most of these motherboards had an empty slot for the aftermarket addition of a coprocessor.
The number (or name) of the math coprocessor followed the CPU's numbering sequence, only the last digit would be a '7', not a '6'.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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