Microwave ovens have been a fixture in domestic kitchens for several decades, thanks to their core-to-crust heating ability, low cost and ease of use. There are several basic parts that make up a microwave oven, including the magnetron, turntable and electronic control panel. A microprocessor chip, a basic version of a computer, controls the heating and timing functions of the microwave while taking input from the control panel and various sensors.
Microwave ovens do not contain anything as complex as a modern computer processor. A microprocessor, a scaled-down, single-circuit computer chip, regulates the functions of the oven. Microprocessor chips receive binary instructions from the control panel and convert the information into commands for the various parts of the oven. The processor chips used in modern computers are considerably larger and more powerful.
As microwave ovens become more complex and incorporate additional features such as convection heating and sensor cooking, the microprocessors have become more powerful. Modern microwave microprocessors control the various sensors, the timer, the motor and the memory for previous cycles. The microprocessor is the brain of the microwave oven.
A microprocessor takes up very little space, hence its name, making it perfect for use in small appliances. It would not be cost-effective for manufacturers to install larger, more powerful processors in a kitchen appliance because controlling a microwave requires very little computer power. A microwave microprocessor is ideal for its task, providing "brainpower" at a low price and small size.
Microprocessor or Computer
The modern definition of a computer suggests a processor chip, a memory bank, a hard drive and some sort of input and output device. Since the microprocessor inside a microwave lacks several of these features, it is not classified as computer. The microprocessor is sometimes referred to as a computer in product literature to avoid confusion.
Jon Stefansson has been a professional writer since 2009. He is currently freelancing as an advertising and web copy writer for several Canadian and American clients. Stefansson graduated from Staffordshire University, England, with a Bachelor of Arts in broadcast journalism. He has freelanced for several British radio stations as a news reader and sports producer.