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coprocessor

coprocessor A microprocessing element designed to supplement the capabilities of the primary processor. For example, several microprocessor manufacturers have coprocessors in their product lines that offer expanded mathematical processing abilities, including high-speed floating-point arithmetic and computation of trigonometric functions. The coprocessor extends the set of instructions available to the programmer. When the main processor receives an instruction that it does not support, it can transfer control to a coprocessor that does.

The variety of functions that could be implemented in a coprocessor is unlimited, and more than one coprocessor may be used in a system if the primary processor has been suitably designed. For instance, one coprocessor may provide high-speed math processing and another may provide database management primitives. An example of a coprocessor is the Intel 80487, which is a math chip designed to work with the 80486SX processor.

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