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A serial processor is a processor type used by systems where the central processing unit (CPU) carries out just one machine-level operation at a time. The term is often used in contrast to a parallel processor, which features more than one CPU to perform parallel processing.
In 2005 Intel launched the first dual-core processor for end users; prior to that, every computer processor used the serial processing technology.
Various single-core processors can be used together for handling serial processing by means of parallel computer clusters that are networked, or by operating multiple processors on a single motherboard.
Programs intended for serial processing can make use of just a single core at a time, where the tasks are processed in a sequential order. Functions of a serial processor can be compared with a grocery store cashier who single-handedly handles different lanes, looking over every customer simultaneously. The cashier (like the CPU) switches from lane to lane to check out a number of items at a time prior to addressing the next one, with the objective of completing every order concurrently.
Serial processing is purely sequential. A system using standard serial processing techniques lets every object take exactly the same average time frame for processing. Moreover, the subsequent object starts processing only after the completion of the previous one. On the contrary, parallel processing implies simultaneous processing on various objects or subsystems. The processing, however, may complete at different times. Individual as well as overall processing periods can be random in either type of processing. That is, the time periods essential for processing an item or executing an operation may differ from trial to trial.