Building a PC - processor

Which component is the brains behind a computer?
13 March 2018

Interview with 

Nick Batterham - Cambridge University




Naked Scientist Katie Haylor took up the challenge of building a desktop PC with the help of Nick Batterham from Cambridge University's Department of Computer Science and Technology. Step 2 - find the processor...

Nick  - This is the component that does all the work - it’s the brains of the computer. The part that manipulates the data and it does calculations.

Katie - It’s a square; I think there’s some silicon in it, is that right?

Nick - Yeah.

Katie - It looks like it’s encased in; is that metal or plastic?

Nick - It’s a metal case over the top.

Katie - Ah, okay. So you just turn that over and things look a bit more interesting.

Nick - Each one of those tiny little squares that you can see there is made of gold and each one of those is a connection to the microprocessor, so there are hundreds.

Katie - The microprocessor is the bit that’s inside all of that?

Nick - Yes. The actual piece of silicon with the actual microprocessor is actually much smaller than this. That will be a piece in the centre there, probably about the size of my little finger.

Katie - Where does it go? If we walk back over to our box with our power supply and our motherboard, where does it go?

Nick - It goes in this holder here that’s roughly in the middle of the board. You undo that lever there and pull it back and this frame lifts up.

Katie - Ah, okay. And just slots straight in?

Nick - Yeah. The microprocessor, you literally just hold it by the edges and lay it into that frame carefully. It can actually only go one way because there are little notches on each side, what we call keys, that only allow you to put it in the correct way.

Katie - So we’ve just put in the brain of the computer?

Nick -  Yeah. Other than we have to put this metal frame back over to hold it in place like so.


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