Isn’t it true that all of the devices we use nowadays just work? However, few individuals consider the brains that enable them to exist. A system on a chip, or SoC, powers many of the gadgets we use.
What Is a System on a Chip (SoC)
The term “system on a chip” refers to a computer that runs on a single chip. It’s named so because it’s made up of a number of critical computer components that are all crammed into a single chip. Because of its tiny size and good power efficiency, SoCs are predominantly employed in mobile devices.
Several firms sought to cram several components onto a single chip to power digital timepieces starting in 1970. In 1974, Intel achieved this with the Microma Digital Watch, resulting in the first true SoC. The timing operations and LCD driver transistors were combined on a single chip by the business.
In the 1980s and 1990s, SoCs truly took off. In the 1980s, personal computers were becoming increasingly popular, necessitating the use of smaller processors. SoCs were first utilized in telephones in the 1990s, and the trend continues today with SoCs in smartphones and tablets.
What’s on an SoC?
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
The CPU is one of the most important components of the SoC. The CPU is also known as the device’s brain. This is due to the fact that it handles all of the major processing jobs you throw at your device. The CPU processes information from the RAM and cache in the same way that your brain processes information from your senses.
Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
The GPU in the SoC works similarly to the CPU, however it handles distinct tasks. Everything from the code to the visuals can be processed by the CPU, but that would be too much effort. The GPU processes graphics data to alleviate some of this pressure. Everything you see on the screen is processed by it.
Random access memory (RAM) is a type of memory that may be accessed at any time. The RAM stores data that must be accessed immediately. Previously, computers had to retrieve data directly from their physical storage devices, but this is a laborious operation.
RAM solves this problem by providing significantly quicker memory that reads and writes data far faster than normal storage, including SSDs. The CPU can easily retrieve and remember important data from the ultra-fast memory once it has been loaded into RAM.
Consider the following scenario: you need to open an application. The program is stored on your computer’s hard disk. When you launch it, it loads the application from the hard drive into RAM, which the CPU may use. Data may be accessible quickly depending on what happens in the application to keep things running smoothly. Your CPU inserts data into RAM that it thinks you’ll need in relation to the program, speeding up recall even more.
Much while RAM is a fast-access memory block, there is another type of memory that is even faster. It’s referred to as the CPU cache. The RAM stores data that the CPU requires, but if there is information that is often requested, it is moved to the cache. Even quicker than RAM, the cache may transfer data to the CPU.
Let’s say you open a software several times in a short period of time. The system will save the software in the cache so it may be loaded even faster in the future. Websites are also cached so that they may be accessed more quickly.
The actual signal modems are incorporated inside the SoC, which may seem strange. The modems transform the electromagnetic wave into a digital signal that your phone or mobile device understands. When sending data to servers, the modem is also in charge of performing the converse.
Image Processing Unit (IPU)
The image processing unit (IPU) is in charge of processing data from a camera. When light strikes the image sensor, it converts the information into a digital signal, which is then delivered to the SoC. The IPU subsequently processes the data, allowing the CPU to focus on other duties.
If your device has video data, it will need to be converted into an analog signal before it can be seen. The video encoder is in charge of transforming the digital signal into an analog (raw electrical) signal. The display then converts the electrical signal into light.
The SoC might feature a variety of components depending on the device. Some SoCs, for example, don’t have integrated RAM, while others feature a component called the NPU. It’s short for neural processing unit, and it’s in charge of artificial intelligence and machine learning activities.
The Future of SoCs
SoCs have traditionally been found in mobile devices, but we’re on the verge of a new SoC revolution: SoCs powering complete desktop PCs. Apple’s M1 processor, an ARM-based SoC that drives some of their latest MacBooks, is an example of how SoC technology is progressing to the point where it can run complete desktop applications.
Using SoCs to power computers has advantages. SoCs are excellent in terms of power efficiency, in addition to conserving space. Overall, the smaller CPUs require less energy, resulting in longer battery life for computers.
In addition, SoCs do not get as hot as big CPUs. Because SoCs may run cooler than massive CPUs, gadgets, particularly laptops, will be more comfortable to use. Not only that, but they’ll do away with the necessity for fans entirely. Fans are used in computers and game consoles to dissipate the heat generated by the CPUs. Removing the fans frees up more space in the gadget and reduces power consumption.
In conclusion, many people are able to operate their entire business using SoCs. All of the functions we do on our phones or tablets are handled by chips that are less than a cent in size. They will soon be used to power computers. SoCs demonstrate that big things can be contained in small packaging.