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Microcontrollers Explained – Why Your PC Couldn’t Do Without One

The PC sector has endured mixed fortunes during recent times, with the domestic market having declined by 5% in the year ending January 2019. However, commercial PC revenues increased by 5% during the same period, with the UK leading this charge and boasting relevant growth margins of 11.8%.

Overall, there’s no doubt that there remains a viable demand for PCs in the UK, and this continues to drive growth in associated markets for software and various hardware components.

It certainly benefits those who manufacture microcontrollers, which are key PC components that serve as the brain of individual devices. But how does a microcontroller work, and why can your PC not function without one?

What is Microcontroller and How Does it Work?

In simple terms, a microcontroller is a compact integrated circuit designed to govern a specific operation, usually with a complex or embedded system.

Typically, a microcontroller will include a processor, memory and input/output (I/O) peripherals on a single chip. The processor provides intellectual functionality to a specific device, as it responds to various instructions and utilises these to direct the microcontroller’s function.

When it comes to the memory function, this is used to store the data that the processor receives and uses this to carry out specified instructions.

There are two types of memory featured too, including program (which stores long-term information pertaining to instructions) and data (which offers a form of temporary storage).

As we can see from its core components, microcontrollers are capable of providing tremendous functionality, which is why they’re commonly used to operate everything from vehicles and robots to vending machines and PCs.

Additionally, these devices all rely on some form of dynamic motion, and require microcontrollers to operate this and facilitate specific actions. To this end, they function like miniature personal computers within specific devices, controlling small features of a far larger component in the process.

Why are Microcontrollers Central to the Function of PCs?

Given the composition of microcontrollers and how they function, it stands to reason that they should play a key role within modern day PCs.

After all, they can be easily embedded inside a complex computing system to control singular functions of a device, and in the case of a PC it interprets data received through I/S peripherals before storing this and using it to complete directed user actions.

Of course, the interesting point here is that microcontrollers are effectively special purpose computers used to drive functionality in general purpose PCs.

This is crucial; as it means that they’re able to undertake a small number of specific actions and execute them to a particularly high standard. This has enabled designers to create more efficient and capacious PCs, which offer greater value to users in both domestic and commercial settings.

Without the use of the type of microcontrollers sold by RS Components, modern PCs would boast far less memory space and reduced functionality, whilst they would most likely be considerably larger than they are today.

After all, microcontrollers are compact and can easily be installed in computers, improving performance while also contributing to smaller and increasingly ergonomic designs.