A single VLSI integrated circuit (IC) chip houses a small computer known as a microcontroller (MCU for microcontroller unit). A microcontroller has memory, programmable input/output peripherals, and one or more CPUs (processor cores). Along with a small amount of RAM, program memory in the form of ferroelectric RAM, NOR flash, or OTP ROM is frequently included on the chip. In contrast to microprocessors, which are used in personal computers or other general-purpose applications and consist of various discrete chips, microcontrollers are designed for embedded applications.

A microcontroller is similar to a system on a chip (SoC) in modern terminology, but it is less sophisticated. While the motherboard components of an SoC may be connected to external microcontroller chips, an SoC typically incorporates advanced peripherals like a graphics processing unit (GPU) and Wi-Fi interface controller into its internal microcontroller unit circuits.

Auto engine control systems, implantable medical devices, office machines, appliances, power tools, toys, and other automatically controlled products and devices all make use of microcontrollers. By diminishing the size and cost contrasted with a plan that utilizes a different chip, memory, and info/yield gadgets, microcontrollers make it practical to control much more gadgets and cycles carefully. Inconsistent message microcontrollers are normal, coordinating simple parts expected to control non-advanced electronic frameworks. As edge devices, microcontrollers are a cost-effective and widely used method of data collection, sensing, and actuating the physical world in the context of the internet of things.

For low power consumption (single-digit milliwatts or microwatts), some microcontrollers may employ four-bit words and operate at frequencies as low as 4 kHz. Typically, they are able to keep their functionality while they wait for an event like a button press or other interruption; With the CPU clock and most peripherals off, power consumption while asleep may be as low as nanowatts, making many of them ideal for applications requiring long-lasting batteries. Higher clock speeds and greater power consumption may be required of other microcontrollers in performance-critical applications where they must behave more like a digital signal processor (DSP).

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