A brief look back at the 30th anniversary of Intel’s Pentium processors

In today's age of multi-core CPUs, ultra-high clock speeds and integrated graphics, it's interesting to look back at the processors that really revolutionised the personal computing industry. We are talking about the first Intel Pentium processor, which was launched 30 years ago this month, on 22 March 1993.

a brief look back at the 30th anniversary of intels pentium processors

The Pentium was designed as the company's x86 family of processor chips and was the successor to Intel's 486 processor chips. However, according to an article in the New Yorker, Intel was unable to trademark the "586". Intel's CEO at the time, Andy Grove, decided to hire a marketing firm, Lexicon, to come up with a new name. The new name had to sound like a component, so Lexicon was inspired by "sodium" and then dropped the "ium" from the word, according to Intel's internal marketing team. It then created thousands of names with "ium" at the end. As Lexicon founder David Placek says:

"I remember one Saturday morning," says Placek, "I was alone in the office, going through a list. It had the word 'galloping' on it." The first thing I thought of was the Pentagon, and I thought, "Well, that's interesting because it's a shape. Then he remembered that "pente" is the Greek word for "five". I suddenly had the inspiration, "Wait a minute, we're going from 486 to the fifth generation, 586".

Intel officially announced the Pentium in September 1992, after obtaining Intel's consent and ensuring that the name did not infringe on any other trademarks. Incidentally, Lexicon went on to coin the name "Blackberry" for Research in Motion's revolutionary smartphone.

The original Pentium was a significant improvement in performance and hardware specifications over the Intel i486 chip. The Pentium could process two instructions per clock cycle (IPC) through two integer pipelines and had a faster floating point unit (FPU) than the i486. The first version was built on a 0.8 micron or 800nm process. It had a maximum clock speed of 66 MHz, 8 kB of Level 1 (L1) cache, 4 MB of addressable memory and 3.1 million transistors. In comparison, Intel's current 13th generation Core chips have a maximum clock speed of 6.0GHz, up to 24 cores and a total cache (L1, L2, L3) of over 70MB. Intel no longer officially discloses the number of transistors in its new chips, but some estimates suggest that there could be as many as 25.9 billion transistors in the 13th generation Core models.

a brief look back at the 30th anniversary of intels pentium processors 1

Both the Intel Pentium name and the processor were a big sales attraction for the company. However, in 1994, Thomas R. Nicely, a mathematics professor at Lynchburg College, announced that he had found a flaw in the Pentium's floating-point unit that could cause the chip to produce errors in certain high-end computing tasks. Although the defect in the floating point unit is extremely rare, it has still caused concern for many users of Pentium-based personal computers. After a wave of bad publicity about the chip's problems, Intel finally announced in December 1994 that it would replace any Pentium processor with one free of the floating point defect.

Intel managed to recover from that embarrassing Pentium defect debacle and continued to release new CPUs under the Pentium name in the 1990s and 2000s as intermediate or advanced processors for PCs. in 2006, Intel introduced its Core line of processors and used the Pentium brand name for its cheaper and lower-performance CPUs designed for budget PCs. In September 2022, Intel said it planned to retire the Pentium and Celeron brands for its mobile processors in 2023, and that Pentium would likely not be used in any of its future desktop computers.

However, the legacy of the first Pentium processor and its successors still exists today. With the rise of the consumer Internet in the mid to late 1990s, a large number of people bought personal computers with Pentium processor versions for surfing the Internet, playing games such as Doom and Thor, and so on. Personal computers, formerly the stuff of computer developers and wealthy families, soon became essential household items in the 1990s, and the Intel Pentium processor range made up the majority of these PCs.

Author: King
Copyright: PCSofter.COM
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