Slideshow: A History of Intel x86 in 20 CPUs
From 1971 to 2012, the chips that built the PC revolution
Would there have been a PC revolution had Intel decided in the late 1960s to stick to making memory chips and turn its back on microprocessors? Almost certainly, but the company did get into CPUs and IBM chose its 8088 chip to build into its first Personal Computer, the 5150.
The 8088 and its sibling, the 8086, evolved from the work done through the 1960s and 1970s on the 4004, 8008 and 8080, and paved the way for the great x86 CPUs, the 286, 386 and 486.
Seeking to build a brand out of its products, part of a marketing strategy to put the Intel name at the forefront of buying decisions, Intel dropped the x86 numbering scheme - though the name was retained for the chips' instruction set - and adopted the name Pentium in 1995, a brand it applied to its primary desktop and mobile chips through to 2006 when it was replaced by Core.
By then, the Celeron and Xeon names had been coined and trademarked - Atom followed in 2008. No doubt, Intel would rather we didn't mention Itanium, absent from the die pics it send us...
How far back does your usage of Intel chippery go? Or did you long abandon them for x86 rivals like AMD, VIA Centaur, Cyrix or other makers of compatible processors? The comments page awaits...
Shouldn't that be the office PC revolution?
The most important CPU for the home computer and video games market was the MOS 6502.
Not to mention that the 16-bit machines people owned at home were largely Amigas and STs.
Nobody I knew owned a PC until the early 1990s and only when Windows 95 came along was it actually nice to use. Even then the responsiveness was abysmal compared to the much lower specced Amigas and STs.
Not just MOS 6502... I would also include Zilog Z80 for the home computer for the ZX81, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC.
And I agree that the Amiga was better at multitasking than Windows 95.
Our office bought an IBM XT in late 1985, to help with premium calculations (I worked for an insurance broker at the time).
At that stage all calculations were done by hand (using a tape calculator), then handwritten on A3 sheets that were taped together before being sent to the typing pool to be typed on an IBM DisplayWriter, using massive 8" floppy disks that could store 256 KB.
It would take two of us about 14 days to do three years' motor claims statistics for one client (just double-checking the figures was a major undertaking: one person would read the numbers whilst the other would add it up on the calculator - then we would switch places and repeat. More often than not the totals were different, forcing us to repeat the exercise).
Once the typing pool had finished typing it all up, we had to verify everything again, plus correct typing mistakes. Once we were happy that everything tallied up, it would be presented it to the account handler for approval.
Once he was happy, it would go to the branch manager (who would need to present to the client), who almost invariably asked for alternative calculations, using different excess amounts, et cetera, kicking off another two weeks of calculations.
Since I had done Computer Science at university, I was asked to spec a system to automate the process as far as possible, saving time and improving accuracy and, most important of all, to enable quick recalculations.
The system we eventualy bought comprised an IBM XT (running at 4.77 kHz), with an EGA Graphics card, capable of displaying 16 colours simultaneously, a massive 10 MB hard disk drive (it came standard with a 5 MB drive, but I reckoned we would fill it within the next three years or so, whilst a 10 MB drive would last forever), plus a 256 KB 5.5" floppy drive. We also upgraded RAM from 256 KB to 512 KB, soon afterwards going to 640 KB.
Software was DOS 1.0, Harvard Graphics, Lotus-123 and MultiMate, whilst output was handled by a dot-matrix printer and a four-colour plotter.
The whole lot was about 10% more expensive than a new BMW 518i (so you can imagine management's reaction when one of my colleagues suggested that everyone in our department should have one of those on our desks!). To put it into perspective, my gross annual salary was about one third of the cost.
After spending a couple of weeks to set up the spreadsheets, hiring a temp to capture all the data and then creating the necessary formulas to do the calculations, the big day finally arrived when I had to demonstrate to management how the system worked (and justify the expense. Whilst the project was approved, they still needed to see it for themselves).
It was amazing: half the office was jammed into our office to watch the show. I gave a short spiel of how it all worked, then changed a couple of key values (like rates and excesses) and pressed F9 to calculate (you could not leave autocalc on, otherwise it would take an age between entries, just to recalculate the whole thing).
In less than 5 minutes we had an answer! Two hours later I had three different scenarios printed out, plus some graphs (We used to use a dedicated plotter, printing on 2.5" wide paper, to print graphs. This was also a painfully slow process, as the machine did not have any RAM, so you had to enter the co-ordinates and colours for each graph every time. The graphs for 10 booklets, containing only 12 graphs per booklet, was a week's work, as each graph had to be cut out and glued into place as well) - a whole month's worth of work for four people!
Needless to say, when the first 286 came out, we got one and shortly afterwards a couple of 386 screamers arrived.
Paris, as she looks as if she is also wiping a tear from the corner of her eye.
What's up with the Celeron and Xeon?
Can anyone explain to me why the Celeron and Xeon (the Celeron especially) look so different to the others? Instead of the standard 'functional blocks' look, they appear to have a fairly regular grid pattern. If I didn't know better I might have though that someone had taken photographs of the wrong side and those were connectors emerging or something.
Enlightenment gratefully received.
Elonex PCs with 6MHz chips, and the "Turbo" button that overclocked them to 8MHz. We had 12 in the office, and by the end of the first year all had been sent back to be repaired at least once. The 680x0-based single board systems were a delight in comparison. Solid, far easier to program with no segmented memory and a decent assembler. It's like VHS/Betamax, the better marketing won.
Still, give me a PDP 11/83 over any of them :)