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Intel Hardware

The History Of Pentium 301

yootje writes "ArsTechnica is running a story about the history of the Pentium processor. It starts with the original Pentium back in 1993, but it also handles the Pentium II and III. The article goes deep about how the processors are designed and work."
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The History Of Pentium

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  • by mirko ( 198274 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @09:59AM (#9674762) Journal
    F00FC7C8 ?
    I remember exploding many systems running many OSes with that...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:00AM (#9674769)
    Really, who came up with the name "Pentium"?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:01AM (#9674784)
    It makes me feel old that they now have a histroy for things I was around for the beginning of.
  • My First Pentium. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by justkarl ( 775856 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:02AM (#9674794)
    I remember back in the day when my family got a brand new computer with this strange device called a Pentium...And it had Windows 95 installed! This was huge, considering our previous computer had a version of Windows from the mid-80's...Anyway, excuse the rant, it's what I think of when I hear "Pentium 1"
    • When I hear Pentium I just think of all those who had one while I still had to struggle with a 486SLC-50. A Pentium 60 was so much faster but my parents didn't buy my excuses why I needed one :(

      • You lucky BASTARD, all we had was a 486SX-33. Yes, that's right, no math-coprocessor and no way to play Quake1 when it came out! At least we were able to upgrade from 4 megs of ram to 8
        • by millwall ( 622730 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:16AM (#9674919)

          You lucky BASTARD, all we had was a 486SX-33.

          Anyone else but me feel old when they read a comment like this? To me 33Mhz still feels like yesterday, not like some ancient processor speed.

          I guess I'm the one getting ancient here.

          • I feel the same, I remember when the low pentiums came out and how in some situations 486 was faster! I remember getting quoted 2000 pounds for a P1 166. I remember paying 1400 pounds for P1 166mhz no MMX, 32mb ram and 4 gig hard disk later that year.
          • A BK-0010 feels like yesterday to me, but I don't feel old because of that. Now if only I could get our BK-0011M back...
          • by AngryTech ( 569057 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @11:00AM (#9675437)
            I tell my nephews that my pcs used to have a "turbo" button, and they look at me cross-eyed.
          • Anyone else but me feel old when they read a comment like this? To me 33Mhz still feels like yesterday, not like some ancient processor speed.

            Well, I still have an 8086 (or 8088 - I'm not completely sure) in semi-active duty as a gaming machine/typewriter. I have to admit, it was built to last - even the floppies are still in perfect working order.

            It's a Dava Ericsson Step/One, if anyone's interested. I learned to use the keyboard in that machine, inputting my very first Basic programs... Ah, the memori

          • i was packing stuff for a move last night, and i discovered i had my dad's old 386 20MHz laptop in one of my storage boxes. better yet, i still had a copy of civilization installed on it. i'm going to have to see if i can hook it up to my kvm switch after i'm done with the move and play some of those good old games on it.
        • I had the SX-25 because our local whitebox shop had recieved a heck of a deal on them as the DX2-66 had come out and my dad only wanted to spend $1,500 that christmas. I also remember mowing a LOT of lawns to be able to afford the upgrade from 4MB to 16MB, it was like $250! Btw rendering in POV-Ray was WAY slow without a math coprocessor =)
        • Luxury! I had to make do with a 386DX33, which took about twice as long to execute each instruction. And 4 megs was the best you were likely to get, 'cause the slots were all filled with 1 meg simms by the cheap computer shop, and the idea of taking a couple out to upgrade was just ludicrous...
    • I remember when my mother brought home a 486 DX-2 66MHZ Packard Bell with something like 8 or 12 megs of ram.

      we thought we were descended from kings, that day.
      • I remember when my mother brought home a 486 DX-2 66MHZ Packard Bell with something like 8 or 12 megs of ram.

        we thought we were descended from kings, that day.

        Yeah, that was the machine I got halfway through college, and felt the same...ahhh, Wing Commander 3...

        Then we got the dorms wired for the 'Net. And I got my ass HANDED to me in Duke Nuke'Em 3D by those punk-ass frosh and their new shiny pentiums...I'd almost hold my own 'til the underwater levels, then my framerate dropped to about, I dunno, .25
  • other sites: (Score:5, Informative)

    by RainbowSix ( 105550 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:03AM (#9674808) Homepage
    Here are some other cool CPU reference sites:
    Sandpile lists electrical specs for lots of CPUs and has links to lots of CPU documents.

    Lots of info here about pinouts and electrical specs. I like this one because it lists the initial selling price for the CPUs as well.
  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:06AM (#9674838) Journal
    Got this from the 'Link of the Day' from "The Inquirer". A good comparison of various architectures.

    http://www.microprocessor.sscc.ru/great/s5.html# AL PHA
  • by crimson_alligator ( 768283 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:07AM (#9674840)
    The reason Intel broke with tradition and gave this chip a non-numeric name is because numbers cannot be copyrighted/trademarked.

    Anyone could sell a "586 Chip": competitive chip makers like AMD and Doritos.

    They switched to Pentium so nobody else could use the name.
    • by the real darkskye ( 723822 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:11AM (#9674883) Homepage
      Author also seems to believe that the P1 went up to 300Mhz, maybe with N2 cooling but I was under the impression it stopped at 233Mhz, with AMD taking SuperSocket 7 speeds to the 500Mhz mark
      • Author also seems to believe that the P1 went up to 300Mhz

        It did, just only in its mobile incarnation. But it was the same core (with MMX stuck on).
      • According to sandpile.org [sandpile.org] the P1 topped at 300mhz, the last model introduced in 1999.
      • Someone I know claims to know someone at Intel who had a 486 clocked far above 100Mhz in the early 90s; suppsedly was much faster than equivilent Penitums.

        Apparently was an internal-only proof of concept CPU that wasn't ever sold, but got used on some in-house boxes.
        • The AMD 5x86-133 (which was a 486 core with MMX) was easily overclocked to 160Mhz. Problem was you weren't just changing the CPU bus speed then, you also overclocked the PCI bus speed (to 40Mhz). Some cards choked.

          Intel and AMD both experimented with 50Mhz CPU bus speeds in the 486 timeframe, so a 200Mhz 486 was probably up and functional in a lab.

          160Mhz was stable once you had the configuration right. My ex-wife was still using that machine up until 2002 or so.

      • The Socket 7 AMD chips went to 550MHz. I recall it being an extra 50 bucks or so when picking out a cpu back then (went with 500MHz)
  • Geek History (Score:4, Informative)

    by killdashnine ( 651759 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:08AM (#9674855) Homepage

    Ahhh, ArsTechnica ... what a refreshing way to start a Monday than to relive my geek heritage. I still have my first Pentium computer in my closet at home. Large paperweight, I presume, but it may still run Linux. I've been thinking of making a wall-mounted collection of all my used processors for posterity.

    I could stand to forget about Win95 though ... (shudders). Nothing worse than having to reformat one's hard drive every 3-6 months!

    • My first pentium (a P120MMX) is currently serving adequately as a file, print, web and e-mail server for my small office. The only upgrades since I acquired it in '97 have been RAM and hard disk space.
    • My firewall/nat/webserver/voice chat server is comprised of an AMD K6 166 running SuSE 7.2, and has been merrily running disklessly since it was installed more than a year ago.
  • Sadly (Score:3, Funny)

    by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:13AM (#9674893)
    the article doesn't tell us when we should expect the Hexium.
  • by Exocet ( 3998 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:13AM (#9674901) Homepage Journal
    Although I grew up on an Atari ST520, later upgraded to a 1040 (eleet) a Packard Bell-produced P60 with 8MB of RAM and a 420MB HD was my first computer, obtained in late 1993. Windows 3.11. Lotta fond memories, even if some of them involve a lot of cursing and head-scratching, most at Windows. Occasionally some weird piece of proprietary Packard Bell technology would rear its head but on the whole it wasn't too bad of a computer.

    That computer was eventually donated to FreeGeek [freegeek.org] - I still have the Atari, though.
    • I grew up on an Atari ST520, later upgraded to a 1040 (eleet)

      Funny, My first PC was the Atari 1040ST with the PC-Ditto hardware mod. Yup, I soldered that NEC V20 daughter board right on top of the 68000 CPU. Funny thing, since the ST didn't have the same hardware limitation the PC had, My Atari turned PC had 704K base memory free... (704K should be enough for anybody, right? ;)

  • Dusty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Prince Vegeta SSJ4 ( 718736 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:14AM (#9674905)
    Geez, I'm starting to feel old.

    Back in 1993

    Was that sooooo long ago? I never had an original pentium, as I usually find the cost/performance not usually worth the upgrade and I therefore usually skip a processor generation or so.

    • 8086 or was it 8088
    • Mac II (i know, it's not a PC, but it kicked ass, and even though I don't have an apple now, I still believe that they are some very nice machines)
    • 486 dx-2 66 (now that was a cool sounding name)
    • Pentium II (300 mhz)
    • Pentium 4 (1.7 & 3.2 Ghz)
    Thing is, why do most of us need all of this power? The only thing that has really driven my upgrades has been the ability to play games. Excel worked fine on a PII (even usuing features most 'business' users don't like regression analysis, formulas, etc)

    Word processors worked fine as well, in fact I miss some of the older processors that didn't try to autoformat every damned thing

    Web browsers as well

    I know there are security issues with alot of older softwares, etc, but can't they produce a fast low cost computer, w/o all of the bloat. Then everyone could afford a decent computer to do 99.9% of the things they wan't to.

    My cousin just bought a $2000 computer and all he want's to do is occasionally surf, rip mp3's and DVD's - could this be done on a pentium or pentium II platform.

    Did, I go way offtopic, it's monday.

    • Re:Dusty (Score:3, Insightful)

      Thing is, why do most of us need all of this power? The only thing that has really driven my upgrades has been the ability to play games

      You should see some of the "text" documents that come across my desk... full of craptastic inserted art, embedded graphics, and so on.

      I'm using a P4 at work right now, and when I had a PII, I remember having to extract all the text content just to be able to work on it, and copy-paste it back into the graphically enhanced version.
      • I'm using a P4 at work right now, and when I had a PII, I remember having to extract all the text content just to be able to work on it, and copy-paste it back into the graphically enhanced version.

        I hear ya on that one, but I seem to remember (keep in mind I'm an old geezer in computer terms - 33) that to alleviate that, you could just upgrade the 'graphics accelerator'. I may be wrong, but couldn't a PII with a good ole' Diamond Viper V550 or V770 do the trick?

        Plus the fact, that every new OS or soft

      • when I had a PII, I remember having to extract all the text content just to be able to work on it, and copy-paste it back into the graphically enhanced version.

        Then the software you're using for editing is badly implemented. I've used MS word and OO.o writer on a 400MHz celeron to edit documents with layouts about as complex as you'd ever expect to see, and both coped fine (although OO.o was showing signs of stress).

        OTOH, using the editor in mozilla's mail client to edit anything with more than a few gr
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I work with a lot of old Intel machines and my general rule of thumb is:

      You need something running at 75Mhz to play an MP3
      You need something running at 100Mhz to encode an MP3 in less time than it takes to play it.

      You need something running at 500Mhz to play a DVD
      You need something running at 1Ghz to encode video on the fly.

      (note: I know I've played a DVD on a 466Mhz machine, but there are some "complicated" DVDs that take just a little bit more horsepower, so that's why I chose 500Mhz as the cutoff poin
      • You need something running at 75Mhz to play an MP3
        I've found this highly dependant on the input bit rate. With a 120MHz processor, I used to be able to play up to 160kb/s flawlessly, but anything over that would occasionally stutter, and 256kb/s was unplayable.

        You need something running at 100Mhz to encode an MP3 in less time than it takes to play it.

        What encoder are you using? I use LAME, and that seems to need ~200MHz to encode in real time.

        You need something running at 1Ghz to encode video on th
    • This is the part of hell where one has to use Java products....

      I have a 800MHz Pentium based T20 running Websphere Studio Application Developer. 512 MB of RAM. I'm using 1GB of virtual memory when I run my programs. My CPU regularly spikes through to 100%. Its hell on earth. Wait a minute. Maybe I'm dead and in hell, since this misery seems to be constant....

      So the answer to your question about why we need all this power is ...Java.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:24AM (#9674977)
    It's not a complete history as it didn't mentioned:

    - How Intel handle the Pentium bug. When the FP bug surfaced, Intel grudgingly agreed to replace Pentium chips if it affected a user significantly. My fellow grad student found out the hard way that his Pentium 90MHz he bragged about yielded wrong results in Matlab for his project. He complained to Intel and Intel wouldn't replace it since it was not important. He was a grad student in an engineering school... how was it NOT important to get accurate results? It took a long time and persistence and a threat to complain to BBB to get it replaced. I never trust Intel since.

    - Intel v. DEC. The article made it sound as all the architectural "innovations" in Pentium were the result of Intel's brilliance. What about the 10 patent infringements from Alpha that prompted DEC to sue Intel? There was a thread of this in another /. article about MS employee cracking AltaVista computers.
  • My first PC used to tick while checking ram (First POST - geddit? Oh, never mind.)

    I graduated from a ZX81 in 1982, to a Sinclair speccy in 1984, to assorted Atari STs until about 1995 when I finally bought a 90mhz Pentium with a whopping 16 megs of ram.

    I pulled that PC out of retirement 5 years ago and set it up as a file/print server running Linux. It was only replaced with a new PC about 18 months ago. I really believe in getting value for money out of old hardware...
    • My first PC used to tick while checking ram

      Heh! My 286 used to do that.

      I really believe in getting value for money out of old hardware...

      So, what're you doing with the speccy? :)
      • So, what're you doing with the speccy? :)

        I've got about eight of them now, they're fairly rare in Australia so I usually throw in a bid when one comes up on ebay. (One 16kb machine, three rubber keyed ones, a 48+, a 128 +2 and a 128 +3 with disk drive. And some other bits, including 4 ZX81s and a ZX80 without a case ;-) I've also got four cartons of tapes, one of which was MIA on WOS. I don't have my ST any more, I sold it for $3k which paid for the PC.

        I know, it's all nostalgia but they were hap
  • by kisrael ( 134664 ) * on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:25AM (#9675000) Homepage
    Is there any way of "easily" understanding how a chip handles out of order dependcies? I've done some 6502 programming (Atari 2600) but the idea seems pretty amazing to me...I guess each instruction can only affect a certain # of registers and memory locations, and if another instruction doesn't rely on those, it's ok to run it prematurely, before the the first instruction...

    Well, maybe I've answered my own question, but it seems pretty amazing that you can get improved performance with that, and not having to rollback all the time.
  • Intel brought us ...the deliberately misleading "the P-III makes your Internet faster!!"

    God I remember the hype and FUD those B******ds stirred up with that bloddy ad campaign. I can still hear people walking up to me and asking: "Do you have a PC? What's your pentium?". Calm, calm, think happy... "Two OK!! It's two! And tell all your friends you need a pentium or your computer won't work! BEGONE EWES!!" It hurt to hear that again and again. I just gave up correcting people. They looked at me like I was crazy. Geeze listen to this guy, he dosen't know what a pentium is.

    If Intel learned anything in those last few years of the P6 core's life, it learned that clock speed sells

    It certainly does, and that's still the one thing that keeps me from buying AMD. When I configure a PC I can choose between a Pentium 2.2GHz, or an AMD 2400. Now how fast is the 2400? I don't know, It didn't say, and that's why AMD is No. 2. That and Intels hugely successful campaign of intel inside, making consumers believe that if hasn't got an intel chip, it won't work. They expect it, like they expect a monitor. Let them pay for their ignorence.
    • How fast is a Pentium 530? 360? 720?

      At least AMD's Model Numbers had some grounding in the real world. It said how fast the processor ran. By 'fast' I mean in terms of processing data, not how fast its little legs were running.

      AMD is number two simply because they are a fraction of the size of Intel, and have only been competing with them decently in the last 5 years, hardly enough time to get significant marketshare from an incumbent in the marketplace.

      Intel were very lucky in the 80's - their processor
  • by supersam ( 466783 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:30AM (#9675046) Homepage
    ... when I used to lust, in equal measures, for the hottest girl in my class and the soon-to-be-launched Pentium!!

  • by WizzleWizzleWizzle ( 697435 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:32AM (#9675064)
    I had only been in the PC-building business for a few months when the Pentiums came out. I was always really nonchalant when it came to building computers and was certainly not gentle. However, everything I had built up to that point either had the CPU soldered onto the motherboard or someone else had done it because I had never seen a separate CPU.

    When the first Pentium-based system arrived at my workstation to build I mounted the motherboard to the case and then put the CPU in place, but it didn't go in very well. I pulled it out and bent the pins back into place and put it in again. It felt like it went in okay.

    I took the little arm thing and pulled down to secure it in place and heard a sound, but I thought it was okay... I had never done this before.

    I put in the cards, drives and memory and fired the system up... blank screen and then... POP!!! and some smoke.

    I didn't realize the CPU had a dot that corresponded with a notched corner indicating how to put the thing into place. From then on I started paying attention to things like that.

    The Pentium made me mature as a technician... for about a week; then it was a contest to see how far we could launch them in the air. (kidding)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yep. Been there, done that. I write it off as the cost of learning -- paying the "street" tuition. Someone who has never ever buggered a piece of hardware has never built anything.
    • Been there, done that, put the chip in the right way and it still worked fine.

      I can't remember if it was my AMD 486DX4 or my P200MMX that survived the smoke escape but both served me for many years after.
  • by Epistax ( 544591 ) <epistax AT gmail DOT com> on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:43AM (#9675217) Journal
    1978: 8086 processor is released
    1979-Present: Regret

    I think many of you will know exactly what I mean.
  • Quake (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Richard W.M. Jones ( 591125 ) <<gro.aixenna> <ta> <hcir>> on Monday July 12, 2004 @10:46AM (#9675260) Homepage
    The article neglects to remember the killer app for the Pentium - namely Quake 1. It was specifically optimized for the Pentium 1, and I remember it ran much much faster on a 66 MHz Pentium than on a 100 MHz 486 DX-4.


  • I'll pass (Score:3, Funny)

    by invisik ( 227250 ) * on Monday July 12, 2004 @11:02AM (#9675456) Homepage
    I don't need to read it, I've lived it.... :)

  • Old Stuff... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by enigmax01 ( 785835 )
    And to think... my uncle is still using his 75MHz Pentium every day. The funny thing is it still fits his needs and sees no reason to upgrade. It takes forever to boot up and get into his AOL account, but he just leaves the room for a while... watches tv... grabs a snac... and by then it should be there for him. I have been trying to convince him to upgrade for years, but I guess you could say he is getting his moneys worth.
  • by Bender_ ( 179208 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:02PM (#9676916) Journal
    The article lacks a lot of detail, especially about the Pentium I. It makes it look like the "addition of MMX" was to only enhancement of the Pentium I. Instead it went through at least two redesigns and shrinks. First from a BiCMOS based P60 and P66 to the later P75-P200 design. The "addition" of MMX brought many additional tweaks as a far improved branch prediction.

    The article does also claim that the Pentium I FPU was sub par. This is not true, in fact the design gets the most out of a stack-based FPU without resorting to out-of-order exucution. The FPU of the much praised contender at that time, the 68060 was as much as three times slower due to lack of pipelining.

    Some flaws in the Pentium I designs: Waste of resources for a dual read data cache, which is rarely utilized. Dog slow shift and integer multiplication as compared to motorolas offerings, but intel kept the strategy also in later CPUs.

  • So many mistakes (Score:3, Informative)

    by Stonent1 ( 594886 ) <stonent@stone n ... n t c l ark.net> on Monday July 12, 2004 @06:33PM (#9681169) Journal
    1. P-Pro wasn't just 256/512 there were 1mb and 2mb versions.
    2. P-3 was initially off-chip L2 but later went to on-chip L2.
    3. P-2 was available up to 333MHz on the desktop end and 400MHz on the laptop end.
    4. It was implied that the SECC cartridge was just on the P-2, the P-3 also used a SECC cartridge and continued even after Socket 370 was standardized.
    5. The author said that the P-3 brought the Bunny Suits, no that was the P-2. The P-3 brought us the sock monkey, robot, and even the blue man group.

I am a computer. I am dumber than any human and smarter than any administrator.