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In computing, a processor is the unit that reads and executes program instructions, which are fixed-length (typically 32 or 64 bit) or variable-length chunks of data. The data in the instruction tells the processor what to do. The instructions are very basic things like reading data from memory or sending data to the user display, but they are processed so rapidly that we experience the results as the smooth operation of a program.

Processors were originally developed with only one core. The core is the part of the processor that actually performs the reading and executing of instructions. Single-core processors can process only one instruction at a time. (To improve efficiency, processors commonly utilize pipelines internally, which allow several instructions to be processed together; however, they are still consumed into the pipeline one at a time.)

A multi-core processor is composed of two or more independent cores. One can describe it as an integrated circuit which has two or more individual processors (called cores in this sense). Manufacturers typically integrate the cores onto a single integrated circuit die (known as a chip multiprocessor or CMP), or onto multiple dies in a single chip package. A many-core processor is one in which the number of cores is large enough that traditional multi-processor techniques are no longer efficient largely due to issues with congestion supplying sufficient instructions and data to the many processors. This threshold is roughly in the range of several tens of cores and probably requires a "network on chip". GPU\'s are a form of multi-core processor.

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