16-bit computing

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16-bit computing

CPUs that process 16 bits as a single unit, compared to 8, 32 or 64. The first personal computers in the late 1970s used 8-bit CPUs but migrated to 16 bits with the IBM PC in 1981. In the mid-1980s, PCs jumped to 32 bits with the Intel 386, and the Mac debuted with the 32-bit Motorola 68000 CPU. See 8088, 386 and 68000.

The 16-bit CPUs are still used as embedded processors in myriad products that do not require the higher speed. However, over the years, a lot of design effort went into 32-bit CPUs, making them faster, more efficient, smaller and less expensive and competitive with 16-bit CPUs for numerous embedded applications. See 8-bit computing, 32-bit computing and bit specifications.


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