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The Classics

What makes something "a classic"? To me, a true classic inspires great admiration from the moment it sees the light of day, and every day thereafter. Something that is classical is beautiful, with a beauty that transcends conventional definitions of aesthetic success. Moreover, a true classic is something that defies time, worthy of admiration even after the sheen of newness has worn off; a true classic seems to become more beautiful, more worthy of admiration, as time goes by.

True classics seem to wear a cachet of exclusivity and prestige; after all, not everything can qualify to be considered a classic. Whether appraised against its contemporaries or against peers that come after its own time, a true classic will seem to always measure up.

Art in all its myriad forms -- music, sculpture, cinema, painting, architecture, industrial design, or whatever else -- has its share of true classics. But technology also has its classics.

Consider automobiles as an example. Few would argue about the status of, say, the Shelby Cobra (in all its varied forms) as a classic. The 1957 Chevy Bel Air is another true classic, as is the 1985 Lamborghini Countach 5000 Quattrovalvole (more so than most other Countach models). These cars are not the only examples of "classic" cars, but I would argue that rare would be the list that would omit all three of these cars.

Even in computing, there are some classics. I think that AMD's Socket 939 (yes, yes, I'm terribly biased) is one of a very select few that would qualify. Originally released in mid-2004, it is arguably still relevant in mid-2008. Though AMD ceased production of CPUs in mid-2007, there is still a considerable number of enthusiasts who continue to use S939 platforms in their primary machines. It is not as fast as Socket AM2, which is a refresh of AMD's awesome K8 platform, but that's to be expected given AM2's greater memory bandwidth potential and refined manufacturing techniques. Nevertheless, the fact that AM2 does not significantly outperform S939 by a big margin (not nearly as much as S939 made Intel's NetBurst Pentiums and AMD's own S754 platform pale in coparison) only reinforces the argument that S939 is a true classic.

Intel's Core 2, which wrested the performance crown from S939, is shaping up to be a classic in its own right as well. Intel needed something special to replace its NetBurst architecture, and Core 2 delivered. Core 2 was what S939 was to the Pentium 4, a decisive improvement over the reigning performance champion. When Core 2 is finally retired (perhaps as soon as next year) as the greatest expression of FSB-based CPUs (K8s are based on the HTT Clock, remember, which is not the same as a FSB), Intel will have its equivalent to AMD's S939.


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