Digital Signal Processing is carried out by mathematical operations. In comparison, word processing and similar programs merely rearrange stored data. This means that computers designed for business and other general applications are not optimized for algorithms such as digital filtering and Fourier analysis. Digital Signal Processors are microprocessors specifically designed to handle Digital Signal Processing tasks. These devices have seen tremendous growth in the last decade, finding use in everything from cellular telephones to advanced scientific instruments. In fact, hardware engineers use "DSP" to mean Digital Signal Processor, just as algorithm developers use "DSP" to mean Digital Signal Processing. This chapter looks at how DSPs are different from other types of microprocessors, how to decide if a DSP is right for your application, and how to get started in this exciting new field. In the next chapter we will take a more detailed look at one of these sophisticated products: the Analog Devices SHARC? family.