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Difference between Microcontroller and Microprocessor

Updated May 22, 2019

It is commonplace for most people to be confused when they have to differentiate between microprocessors and microcontrollers. At the very onset they may appear to be the same but they are certainly not. This article aims to throw light on the major differences between a microprocessor and microcontroller in the simplest of ways. Read on for more.

Microprocessor and Microcontroller Comparison Chart

Now that you have gained basic knowledge about what a microcontroller and microprocessor are, you will find it convenient to differentiate between the two:

Micro Processor

Micro Controller

It forms the core of the processing system of a computer.

It is the heart of a specific embedded system in an electronic device like a washing machine, microwave oven, etc.

It is merely the processing unit. The input / output devices and the memory have to be connected externally.

The input/ output components, internal memory and external processor are all present within a micro controller.

Incapable of being used in compact systems because of its size, hence not so efficient.

Efficiently designed and compact in size, a microcontroller can be fitted into small and large devices alike.

The overall cost of the system increases as other components have to added for a microprocessor to function.

Cost-effective and affordable, a microcontroller has all required components placed internally.

Because of the presence of externally attached components, the overall power consumption is high. Microprocessors cannot be used on batteries and other stored sources of power such as batteries.

The overall power consumption is low because there are no external peripherals attached that draw extra power. Microcontrollers can also run on stored power sources like batteries.

Most microprocessors are devoid of power saving modes and features.

Power consumption can be further reduced in microcontrollers with the help of power saving modes such as the idle mode.

As the input/output components and memory are externally placed, instructions are operated from outside and are thus slow to process.

The speed of processing instructions is fast as most components are placed internally in the microcontroller.

The number of registers in microprocessors is less; given this, almost all operations are based on the unit’s memory

The programs used for operating microcontrollers are easier to develop because of the presence of more registers

The Von Neumann architecture/model forms the base of microprocessors. The same memory module is used for storing data and programs.

The Harvard architecture forms the base of microcontrollers wherein the data and programs are stored separately

Mainly used as processing units for personal computers

Used for washing machines, MP3 players and other electronic devices

Designed on silicon integrated chip/ chips hence expensive

Made with complementary ‘metal oxide semiconductor technology’ which makes the cost affordable

The general processing speed of microprocessors is 1 GHz or above. They work faster than microcontrollers.

Processing speed of a microcontroller is generally in the range of MHz to 50 MHz.

The tasks performed are software development, website development, documents making, game development, etc. These tasks are quite complex and require more speed and memory.

The tasks performed are generally less complex and limited.

What is a Microprocessor?

A microprocessor is defined as the unit that controls a micro-computer. A microprocessor is often referred to as the central processing unit but is much advanced with respect to its architectural design. It is designed on a silicon microchip. A microprocessor is capable of processing, executing, storing and passing on the results of logical instructions passed in binary language to it. Equipped to perform ALU (Arithmetic Logical Unit) related tasks, it communicates with connected devices and different parts of a computer to control data flow effectively.

Who Invented the Microprocessor?

Ted Hoff, who was associated with Intel as a young scientist, is accredited with the invention of microprocessors. Hoff received a feasible platform for the development of microprocessors when Intel was commissioned by a Japanese company by the name of BUSICOM. Hoff was asked to design a chip in the form of an entire mini-computer for BUSICOM’s new series of calculators. Albeit a complicated one, the chip was successfully designed by Hoff. Frederico Faggin, an engineer with Intel, was responsible for designing the chip into a workable product. The first microprocessor chip was named 4004 and was 1/8" by 1/16". It had 2300 transistors firmly etched into silicon and was equally powerful (if not more!) as ENIAC, which was built in 1946. ENIAC was a whopping 30 tons computer!

What is Microprocessor 8085?

The Intel 8085 was introduced in 1976 as an 8-bit microprocessor. The microprocessor is software-binary compatible with Intel 8080. It has two additional minor instructions for supporting its serial and interrupt input/output features. In comparison to Intel 8080, Intel 8085 requires reduced support circuitry. It has paved the way for the development of less expensive and simpler microcomputer systems.

What is Microcontroller?

A microcontroller is defined as a low-cost, small microcomputer. It is a small computer that is designed in a singular integrated circuit. Dedicated to perform specific tasks such receiving remote signals, managing embedded systems, displaying the information on a microwave, etc. a microcontroller can execute a single application only. In general, it consists of the memory (EPROM, RAM, ROM), the processor, input/output peripherals (timers, counters) that are programmable, serial ports, etc. Microcontrollers are mainly used in automatically controlled devices like cellphones, washing machines, cameras, microwave ovens and other electronics.

Who Invented the Microcontroller?

Gary Boone, who was associated with Texas Instruments invented the microcontroller during the period 1970-71. He successfully designed a singular integrated circuit chip that was capable of holding all the essential circuits contained in a calculator with the exception of keyboard and display unit. This revolutionary breakthrough took the world of electronics and communication by storm and was named TMS1802NC. Boone’s invention had 5000 transistors with 128 bits of access and 3000 bits of program memory.