Feeds

Happy 40th birthday, Intel 4004!

The first of the bricks that built the IT world

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

'We just plain ran out of atoms'

But that relatively straightforward sequence of improvements didn't last. In the early 2000s, Bohr told us, "Traditional scaling ran out of steam." The problem was that as process sizes got smaller and smaller, circuits tended to leak more power proportional to the amount of electrons that are doing useful work.

Or, as Bohr put it, "We just plain ran out of atoms." When you're talking about gate oxides, he explained, a 1.2nm deposit is only about six atomic layers thick.

At that point, Bohr said, it became clear that it was necessary to investigate, develop, and introduce what he called "revolutionary features", such as strained silicon, then high-k metal gate, and most recently what Intel calls tri-gate transistors and much of the rest of the world calls FinFET structures.

Intel 8008

Intel 8008: 800KHz, 10-micron process (click to enlarge)

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. On the architectural side, there were plenty of developments underway while the process engineers were busily scaling down the chips' transistors.

Pawlowski wasn't in on the earliest days of the 4004's morphing into the 8-bit 8008 of 1972, and then the development of the much more capable 8-bit 8080 in 1974, which was the microprocessor that really got the ball rolling.

The 8080 wasn't alone, though – there was plenty of competition in the earlier days, such as the Zilog Z80, Motorola 6800, and MOS Technology 6501, which Pawlowski told us were all essentially equal competitors at the time.

"The 8080 was essentially just a simple processor," he told us, "but it had a program counter, it had these nice, wonderful eight registers that we have today, the eight-bit registers. Then the 8085 was an extension of that – it was essentially a 5-volt part."

Pawlowski's first baby at Intel was the 8086, which had a 16-bit external bus, unlike its compatriot, the 8088, which had an 8-bit external bus.

The 8088's claim to fame was that IBM chose it for its groundbreaking IBM Personal Computer – aka the Model 5150 – which it introduced in 1981. According to Pawlowski, IBM chose the 8088 because its 8-bit external bus was compatible with peripherals that had been developed for the smaller-market 8080 and the 8085.

Intel 8080

Intel 8080: 2MHz, 6-micron process (click to enlarge)

After the 8086/8 came the 80286, which Pawlowski described as not a ground-breaking departure, but rather "just a better architecture than the 8086." The 80286 still required a math coprocessor, the 80287. Unfortunately, Pawlowski remembers, "The 286 added some interesting things, like with the math coprocessor they added an interrupt field which clobbered some of the old interrupt fields in the 8086."

All progress is not linear.

Website security in corporate America

More from The Register

next story
Bono: Apple will sort out monetising music where the labels failed
Remastered so hard it would be difficult or impossible to master it again
Oi, Tim Cook. Apple Watch. I DARE you to tell me, IN PERSON, that it's secure
State attorney demands Apple CEO bows the knee to him
4K-ing excellent TV is on its way ... in its own sweet time, natch
For decades Hollywood actually binned its 4K files. Doh!
Your chance to WIN the WORLD'S ONLY HANDHELD ZX SPECTRUM
Reg staff not allowed to enter, god dammit
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Monitors monitor's monitoring finds touch screens have 0.4% market share
Not four. Point four. Count yer booty again, Microsoft
Getting to the BOTTOM of the great office seating debate
Belay that toil, me hearty, and park your scurvy backside
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.