Electronics > Microcontrollers

If someone wouldn't mind taking a moment [microcontroller vs. microprocessor]

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I'm having an argument with someone on a different forum about what a microcontroller is, and what a microprocessor is.

Could somebody please give a quick (couple of lines is all I need) definition of a microcontroller and microprocessor?

I've already told them but they won't believe me. Need some backup!

Apologies for such a waste of time post.  :-[


A microprocessor requires additional support peripherals, such as RAM, program storage, etc.  A microcontroller has everything in one unit.

microcontroller = cpu + one or more I/O related peripherals in/on one chip
microprocessor = a cpu in/on one chip

A microprocessor is just a single IC that contains at least the full complement or parts to implement the CPU (central processor unit) of a computer. Prior to microprocessors, computers had to be made from discreet transistors, then standard logic IC's and then there were IC's that contained a portion of a CPU. The early microprocessor IC's like the Intel 4004 and the 8008 were a massive leap forward as they replaced a massive PCB (or many PCB's) with a single chip.

A microcontroller is probably a microprocessor designed for embedded use. They now tend to include RAM, ROM, A/D converters. EEPROM, etc but I think the 8032 (the Intel 8051 with external EEPROM and RAM) can still be termed a microcontroller.

It would be possible to make a PC with a part labelled as a microcontroller by the manufacturer, so I think the term "microcontroller" can be used either as a term describing the intention of usage by the manufacturer, or the actual usage of the part in a final circuit.

I think if a Pentium4 IC was used as a dedicated embedded processor, it would be OK to describe it as a microcontroller.  Microcontrollers are microprocessors.


Thanks guys, much appreciated.   :)


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