Slideshow: The 11 most influential microprocessors ever

In the wide field of microprocessors, some chips have stood out for the influence they've had technologically, culturally, and economically. They aren't necessarily the most successful, the best selling, or the most powerful, but they each started an important and persistent trend - an architecture, a marketing concept, or a whole new use for computing.

3. Acorn Computers ARM2 (1986)

Breakthrough application: Acorn Archimedes (1987)

ARM originally stood for "Acorn RISC Machine," a name that reveals its heritage. ARM started as a simple, low-cost, 32-bit RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) processor line designed by British computer maker Acorn Computers. It premiered in the form of the ARM2 in 1987's Acorn Archimedes, a 32-bit computer released only in the United Kingdom.

The Archimedes and its descendants fared well in the UK, but never reached U.S. shores. However, the ARM architecture truly shone in its second life as an embedded microcontroller for consumer electronics, powering intelligent gadgets that hundreds of millions of people use every day. ARM processors have found their way into PDAs, cell phones, the Nintendo DS, iPods and iPhones, GPS units, digital cameras, and much more. And they've done so by the billions, making ARM the most-used 32-bit embedded processor architecture of all time.

Photos: Acorn Computers, ARM Holdings

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