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Essential Guide to Semiconductors, The by Jim Turley

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What do 4-Bit, 8-Bit, 16-Bit, and 32-Bit Mean?

The “bittedness” of a microprocessor tells you how fast and powerful it is in very broad terms. If you're a car buff, the number of bits is like the number of cylinders in the engine. A 4-bit processor is the very low end and 64-bit processors (for today, at least) are at the very high end. Most microprocessor chips fall somewhere in between. A PC or Macintosh has a 32-bit microprocessor; microwave ovens generally have an 8-bit processor, and a TV remote control is likely to use a 4-bit processor. The average late-model car includes about a dozen 16-bit microprocessors spread throughout the engine, the transmission, and the dashboard.

More technically, these numbers describe the size, or width, of ...

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