In the Forums...
Posted: December 10, 2000
Written by: Tuan "Solace" Nguyen
This year has been an exciting year for Intel and AMD. Both companies waged war on the MHz battlefield and in the recent months, launched GHz attacks. There were more than 12 processors released this year and that’s never happened before. The rate of change is fast and follows a definite 18 months cycle. But has Intel changed with the cycle or has it fallen behind?
Looking back a few years when Intel first introduced its Pentium Pro processor we can see that it wasn’t largely successful with mainstream users. Intel designed it to be a workhorse and thus it landed into the workstation and server markets. Some people tried running existing 16-bit operating system and applications with the Pentium Pro but discovered that a fast Pentium MMX could do as well or better. This was because the Pentium Pro was optimized for 32-bit instructions. True 32-bit software ran like a charm on the Pentium Pro at the time though.
Later on, Intel introduced the Pentium II to the public. The Pentium II was optimized for both 32-bit and 16-bit software and once again users were delighted that their applications and games ran at peak performance. The Pentium II went away with the on-die L2 cache that distinguished the Pentium Pro and included external cache modules instead. This made the Pentium II much more purchasable than the Pro was and even outperformed the P-Pro.
While the Pentium II was successful by itself, Intel felt like it needed to add something more -- something that could accelerate sound and graphics. This led into the development of SSE or Streaming SIMD Extensions. Think of SSE like MMX, but with more raw power. With SSE, developers could hardness the extra floating-point capabilities of the processor and speed of things like 3D geometry and physics, making your games and graphics flare with excitement. SSE debuted with Intel’s Pentium III processor, which supplied a significant speed increase. Ever since its launch, the PIII has seen an enormous amount of revisions never witnessed before – all for the better too!
The talented engineers at Intel have managed to stay away from an architectural change for a very long time. Ever since the release of the Pentium Pro, Intel has stuck to its guns and safely stayed with the P6 architecture. This architecture has seen many new faces – Pentium II, Pentium III, Celeron, Coppermine Pentium III and Coppermine Celeron. Intel has successfully refined and fine-tuned a core to produce one of the world’s most widely used line of processors.
Time for Change
Intel has finally diverged this year. With the Pentium 4, Intel has finally given the world a new path. This path may or may not be good -- we will see -- but Intel hasn’t let down the processor industry ever, so the future looks bright.
With the Pentium 4 already released, there will ultimately be changes in the hardware and software industry. Intel is the number one supplier of microprocessors worldwide and any change it makes eventually changes other industry areas. What are these changes and how will they affect you? Let’s take a look at the Pentium 4.