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A general-purpose graphics processing unit (GPGPU), is a graphics processing unit (GPU) processor that is used for purposes other than rendering graphics. The emergence of the GPGPU has to do with the evolution of computer processors over the past few decades.
The first and most primitive processor was the central processing unit (CPU). CPU metrics are still used to talk about computer processing in virtualized environments or other setups, but the CPU is not the only choice available anymore.
Early on in the personal computer revolution, as graphics rendering started to stress the ability of the CPU, the GPU was developed to handle these graphics. The GPU, unlike the CPU, has parallel processing capability – it can perform operations more quickly, due to the intense numbers of mathematical calculations necessary to render sophisticated graphics.
Over time, engineers found that a GPU could also be helpful in crunching big data, working with elaborate physical calculations or maintaining other parallel processing tasks that would speed up performance and increase capability. The GPU started getting put into many different systems as a new and improved way of processing because of its multicore parallel processing ability. Now the GPGPU is routinely put into systems that have nothing to do with rendering graphics, because of its applications to big data.