Understanding the CPU: Fast food analogy

Most computer-literate people know that the CPU or the central processing unit is the most important part of a computer. It is the “œbrain” of the computer but do you know how each CPU element contribute to the processing power?

To explain the different CPU elements, here is a loose “œfast food restaurant” analogy to help you better understand the CPU which can be useful if a salesperson tries to talk you into buying a PC that doesn’t match your needs.

Ok let’s take for example the Intel Core 2 Duo P7350, it has the following specs:

  • 2 cores
  • 2 GHz Clock Speed
  • 1066 MHz Front Side Bus
  • 3 MB L2 Cache

So how will you understand what those specs can do for you and your computer? Imagine you’re in a typical fast food restaurant”¦

CorecoreThink of the CPU core as a cash register. You can only pay for your meal to a cashier manning a cash register. In our example, the processor has 2 cores so it means it can handle more customers at a time. So imagine what a quad core can do.

Clock Speed

Think of the clock speed as the seniority level of the cashier manning the cash register. Lower clock speed means the cashier is not that familiar with the cash register so processing is much slower.

Clock SpeedQuestion, is one cash register with a senior cashier better than two cash registers manned by trainees? Not always, two cash registers are still better especially when there are lots of customers (information to be processed).

Front Side Bus (FSB)

Don’t you hate it if the queue gets too crowded? You don’t know who’s falling in line and who’s just waiting for something and you’ll end up not falling in line at all?

FSB

The front side bus is like the cashier lane. The higher the FSB, the wider the lane so customers can get processed much better in an orderly manner.

L2 Cache

In your typical McDonald’s or Burger King, there’s this warmer located behind the cashier where they place burgers and other food so they can be served quickly. This is the L2 Cache.L2 CacheA smaller warmer can only contain few burgers so if food runs out, the customer has to wait for a while before the kitchen can prepare a new batch.

Now there are some Intel technology that can also help the CPU. Examples would be Hyper-Threading technology and Turbo-Boost technology which is popular in the Core i3, i5 and i7 family.

Hyper-Threading Technology

In our fast food analogy, hyper-threading allows each of our cash register to have an additional queue allowing more information to be served without downtime.

Hyper-Threading Technology

If you have a dual core with hyper-threading, essentially you can serve 4 queues making it a psuedo-quad core. Of course, a dedicated cash register for each queue is still better.

Turbo-Boost Technology

Don’t you like it when you fall in line and there’s a cashier and another crew helping out in preparing for your food? That’s what Turbo-Boost Technology does.

Turbo-boost Technology

Even if your cashier is not that experienced (low clock speed), if the other cashier doesn’t have any customer, he can turn into a helper and (turbo-boost) prepare the food for the other cash register. Say for example, there’s only one customer at the store but he wants to order in bulk. Turbo-boost ensures that processing is always optimized.

There you have it. If you’re stuck in deciding between two CPU’s, check  its specific details and I hope this guide will help you make a smarter choice based on your needs.

Thanks to Mr. Jerome Matti, marketing manager of Intel Philippines, for helping us understand the CPU better.

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  • nice presentation. I feel like going to Mcdo ,”

  • Cool analogy. Want fries with that?

  • Zirdaj

    What about the structure of AMD processors? They don’t have FSBs, do they?

  • Ok. Great! Now I know more about them terms that have been addling my brain. Thanks. Now I can work on upgrades.

  • Awesome analogy!

    Maybe you should try to visit Intel vs AMD: http://cpu-wars.com

    Cheers!

  • therad

    that's cool man,very easy to understand.