Almost all of the technology we use today is based on the microprocessor. There can be few electrical devices, really only the most basic, whose capabilities are not now defined by software running on a microprocessor chip within. Those chips’ designs are different, and some incorporate much more ancillary functionality than others, but their fundamental architecture is the same: a set of logic and arithmetical units operated in a predetermined sequence by a set of program instructions. The result: a general purpose machine that can be changed to do almost anything — you just keep feeding it different programs. Car engine management; central heating control; TV interface; games console; washing machine cycle… you name it, they use the same chips, just run different code.
Time was when chip makers’ processor evaluation boards were well beyond the reach of ordinary mortals. That didn’t matter, of course: ordinary mortals weren’t interested in small, nude motherboards designed to help designers of embedded systems judge a microprocessor’s suitability for the application they were working on.