Playing catch-up with Motorola
The Pentium's superscalar nature was playing catch-up with Motorola, which had offered superscalar chips for some time. According to Pawloski, the reason that Intel hadn't moved to a superscalar architecture earlier was that the jump from 16-bit to 32-bit mode, while making sure that all existing 16-bit code ran swimmingly, was enough to keep Intel's engineering team occupied.
"At some point in time you don't want to bite off too much," he told us, "otherwise you're going to run into so many problems."
And problems did dog the P5, at least at first. There was, for example, an FPU bug that was the butt of many a joke, and the early 0.8-micron parts were roundly criticised for their toastiness – a problem that dissipated as the P5 architecture was moved to smaller processes and lower voltages.
Although the P5 had introduced superscalar architecture to the Intel line, Pawlowski contends that it was P6 design effort, begun in the early 1990s, that was the greatest achievement of that period.
"I contend that the success of that part," he said, "was because it brought in people that hadn't built the traditional lineage of x86 components" – architects such as Bob Colwell, Dave Papworth, and Mike Fetterman. "Those guys really made that machine," Pawlowski told us.
"There was a big argument between the Pentium and the P6 group, because the Pentium group felt that, 'Hey, that's probably not going to work, that's a huge step, x86 compatibility is going to really be tough'," he recalls.
"One of the reasons that I was brought into the program," he said, "was because I built PCs. In a lot of cases the individuals that were working in that program – because they were non-Intel or they hadn't been exposed to the PC side of the market – well, their feeling was 'We don't have to worry about being compatible, we're doing something new and different'."
That argument didn't cut it. "At the end of the day we said, 'You're going to be a PC, so you better get used to it'," he told us. "So what we did, in the group I was in, was we brought PC compatibility to the part." And x86 compatibility has remained a core tenet of Intel's chip development since.
Well, there is that little thing called the Itanium, but we digress.
What's that in brontosauri?
Succeeded despit etechnology not because of it
The story of teh scusess of intel microprocesors is that commercial and not technical factors dominate.
The 8086 was very much inferior to the 68K and the 16032 it was probably on a par with the Z8000. I rember Intel trying to sell to me at that time and they always emphasised price, the agreement with AMD that gave guarantee of supply and assurance on pricing, and support. They never tried to sell on performance or technical aspects because it was well behind Motorola.
The PC then came out and things changed very rapidly. Intel broke the AMD arrangement and the price of the first non-agreement part the 80287 sky rocketed. Technically intel parts were still very much second best but they sold fantastic numbers o fparts. The 80286 retained the awkward segmented architecture extended withprotected mode performance was still very poor. The 386 finally had a sensible memory architecture but still had the nasty special purpose registers and complicate dinstruction set and performacnce was still very poor compard to other micros. It was probably not until the pentium that Intel gained parity with other microprocessors.
None of these technical things mattered, one design decision by IBM made Intel the dominant microprocessor company with massive reources despite not because of their technical design.
Ahh, those were the days...
...when bytes were were real bytes, Motherboards could be fixed with a soldering iron, "intellectual property" meant you'd paid off your Encyclopedia Britannia, and 'programming' meant hand coding raw MC. Maybe assembler if hung over.
And yes, counting every damn clock cycle.
God, I feel old.... <sniff.>
"After the 8086/8 came the 80286..."
No, it didn't. After the 8086/8 came the 80186/8, which was then followed by the 80286.
I remember coding in 80186 assembly on my dad's Tandy 2000...
A few corrections more...
1. IT was not built on the Intel 4004 or its successors. The information technology industry started in the 1950s with pioneering data processing applications leveraging emerging computing technology. Remember LEO, and the IBM 1401? They were certainly information technology systems. You'd have to use a pretty discrete and tortured definition of IT to claim the 4004 was its first building brick.
2. You use the phrase 'first processor' to describe the 4004. Here comes more pedantry... This is not true either. It was the first commodity, commercially available microprocessor -- which is to say an IC with all the traditional components of a CPU. Computer processors in modern sense date back to at least 1949 and EDSAC. The Digital PDP-11, a direct contemporary of the 4004, certainly has a processor, as did all it's ancestors. What it didn't have was a single chip 'microprocessor.'