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Floating Point Processor (FPU) and Math Coprocessor

Antique ALU’s often could only do integer math. For data that was floating point, any number with a decimal point, the calculation was handled by writing programs to break down the math operation into a series of integer operations. As this was a slow calculation, special purpose arithmetic chips were developed. These circuits were developed specifically to do mathematic functions on floating point data. These were designed to be co-processors with the MPU. Generally these math co-processors were referred to as a Floating Point Processor, or FPU. Early versions of these devices would provide a single function, such multiply, and not surprisingly were referred as hardware multipliers (examples: the Intel 8321, TRW TDC1010). Later true FPU’s provided many different functions (examples: the Intel 8087, the Motorola 68881).