It might now seem obvious that the mechanisms regulating cell division would be found to be a highly conserved feature of eukaryotic cells. This was less clear 20 years ago when the pioneering genetic studies of the cell cycle were initiated. This article presents one view as to what lies at the heart of the budding yeast cell cycle. It is written on the premise that most of the key players, such as cyclin-dependent kinases, the anaphase-promoting complex, the origin recognition complex, Cdc6p and Mcm proteins, were performing similar functions in the common ancestor of yeast and man. Ideas about the budding yeast cell cycle might, therefore, have universal significance for other eukaryotic cells.