There are processors in everything. I’m not even talking about the SoC in your phone or smart TV; but modern devices from cars to consoles are filled with tiny chips. These microcontrollers manage power supplies, interpret sensor readings, move data, handle network connections and a host of other services. The design of these processors, from the architecture to instruction set (the fundamental code that CPUs can execute) is all considered intellectual property, and half the time it’s secret. According to David Patterson, a UC Berkeley professor of computer science, the average device can have processors built by a half dozen different manufacturers or more.
Patterson would know. In 2018 he, along with former Stanford president John Hennessey, received the Turing Prize (essentially computer science’s Nobel) for developing RISC, the design philosophy that powers most of these chips. That work was in the ‘80s, but for the last decade Patterson has been working with another Berkeley team on RISC-V, a new concept for a fully open-source processor.