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CISC (complex instruction set computer or computing)

Contributor(s): Steve Brazier and Hrvoje Cekolj

The term "CISC" (complex instruction set computer or computing) refers to computers designed with a full set of computer instructions that were intended to provide needed capabilities in the most efficient way. Later, it was discovered that, by reducing the full set to only the most frequently used instructions, the computer would get more work done in a shorter amount of time for most applications. Since this was called reduced instruction set computing (RISC), there was now a need to have something to call full-set instruction computers - thus, the term CISC.

The PowerPC microprocessor, used in IBM's RISC System/6000 workstation and Macintosh computers, is a RISC microprocessor. Intel's Pentium microprocessors are CISC microprocessors. RISC takes each of the longer, more complex instructions from a CISC design and reduces it to multiple instructions that are shorter and faster to process.

This was last updated in September 2005

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