Part of the Microprocessors glossary:

A coprocessor is a special set of circuit s in a microprocessor chip that is designed to manipulate numbers or perform some other specialized function more quickly than the basic microprocessor circuits could perform the same task. A coprocessor offloads specialized processing operations, thereby reducing the burden on the basic microprocessor circuitry and allowing it to work at optimum speed.

In the early years of personal computing, the coprocessor was physically separate from the main microprocessor. Starting with the Intel Pentium and Motorola 68000 series, the coprocessor, also known as a math coprocessor, numeric coprocessor, or floating-point unit ( FPU ), became a physical part of the microprocessor chip. Some coprocessors are still available as separate chips or circuit cards. These are designed for specific applications such as high-end graphics, broadband signal processing , and encryption / decryption . Coprocessors of this type make it possible to customize the various models in a line of personal or business computers.

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This was last updated in November 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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