Computers possess many varied types of hardware, but few preside over more data flow than a chipset. An Intel chipset may consist of several chips, but also as few as two, integrated together into one piece of hardware known as an integrated circuit and allowing for greater hardware functionality and computing speed. Widely considered a leading manufacturer, Intel chipsets often ship with many off-the-shelf computers every day.
Early computers would often have several individual chips on an internal motherboard linked together by the computer's circuitry. This presented a large and cumbersome design problem, partially contributing to the large size of early computers. As technology progressed and improved and as scientists engineered more transistors onto a single chip, the number of chips on computer motherboards decreased over time. Intel engineered its first chipset in 1987. Most computers now use a single set of chips, giving rise to the name "chipset." Intel remains one of the leading names in the chipset market.
The chipset's single most important role lies in the facilitation of communication between the computer's microprocessor and other pieces of hardware, without which the computer could not operate. Engineered to work with specific microprocessors, a chipset comes in a pair known as the north bridge and south bridge, respectively. The north bridge conducts activities for components that must work quickly, such as computer RAM, audio and video devices. The south bridge directs activities for ports and other low-speed components. The chipset mitigates data flow for nearly all hardware operations of a computer.
The two chips in the set act as a single integrated circuit. Faster connections brought about by increasing advances in the microprocessing field allows for fine-tuning of tasks the chipset must employ, leading to increased computing speeds and better delegation of tasks between the two chips. According to Moore's Law, the number of transistors on a chip doubles every two and a half years, allowing for exponentially more powerful chipsets as time progresses. Some of Intel's more innovative designs actually integrate the two chipset bridges together for greater functionality and speed.
A chipset remains an individual piece of hardware distinct from both a computer's motherboard and other parts. An Intel chipset, for example, may reside on a motherboard Intel did not manufacture. A large number of companies produce motherboards tailored to work for specific chipsets, yet very few produce chipsets. Another common misconception lies in mistaking a microprocessor for a chipset. While a microprocessor plays a vital role in computer operation and the chipset plays a vital role in transferring information to and from the microprocessor, an Intel chipset does not include the processor itself.
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