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The Evolution Of The Pentium

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

Just thought I'd post one of my previous reports that briefly covered the developement of the Pentium brand. I'm sorry if its a little dated, it was written close to two years ago, but should still be somewhat informative for anyone interested in the history behind the P6 and Netburst architectures.



Intoduction

This brief report is intended as an evaluation of the progression of Intel’s Pentium CPU brand over the years and how it has changed. Due to the limited amount of reliable source material easily available, most information was obtained directly from Intel’s homepage.

Aspects of processor technology are explained and the purpose that those technology’s are intended for.

There is a brief section covering Intel’s main rival (AMD) which is intended to give the reader an idea of the Pentium’s competition and thus why further improvements to its architecture are necessary.


What is a Computer?

“A device that shuffles numbers around from place to place, reading, writing, erasing, and rewriting different numbers in different locations according to;
•a set of inputs
•a fixed set of rules for processing those inputs
•and the prior history of all the inputs that the computer has seen since it was last reset
until a predefined set of criteria are met which cause the device to halt.†(Stokes, J, 2002).

The above defines what a computer is, and it is possibly one of the most important inventions of all time. The computer has made near instant global communication possible via e-mail, and has lead to the vast knowledge resources of the internet. Computers enable companies to store their information and data in a digital format, as opposed to having to use mountains of paperwork, and communicate internally and externally quickly and effectively.

Of course there are a number of components that make up a computer. The main hardware comprised in most typical desktop computers would be the motherboard, memory and the microprocessor. There are many other types of component such as graphics processors, audio processors and chipsets but on many occasions these are built onto a motherboard. Out of these components the one that is probably the most important is the microprocessor. With any computer, no matter what operation or application a user decides to run, the CPU will always be required. Many other components do not hold this level of importance.


Evolution of the Pentium

In 1978 Intel introduced the 4.77Mhz 8086 microprocessor, the first X86 processor. Intel worked hard to develop new variations, which is exactly what happened when Intel created the Pentium processor, the successor to the 486. This microprocessor improved slightly on the performance of it’s predecessor and kept the x86 compatibility (Stokes, J, 2002). The Pentium Processor was introduced on 22nd March 1993 at 60 and 66Mhz, manufactured on an 0.8-micron process, containing 3.1 million transistors and 16kb of L1 cache. By today’s standards these specifications are poor but the Pentium proved popular among DOS users for writing word and spreadsheet documents. It wasn’t until the introduction of the P6 architecture that Intel’s processors really caught on (Stokes, J, 2002).

On 1st November 1995 Intel introduced the P6 architecture in the form of the Pentium Pro which performed significantly better than the original Pentium and proved to be extremely scaleable (Stokes, J, 2005). The P6 architecture began as a 0.6-micron, 150Mhz processor and died as a 0.25-micron, 1400Mhz Pentium III with almost twice as many transistors (Stokes, J, 2002). The main reason this architecture was abandoned was due to the fact that it could not scale faster than 1.4Ghz. This was not enough to catch up with Intel’s rival Advanced Micro Devices (Stokes, J, 2002).

Today’s processors are more complex than those based on the P6 architecture. There are currently only two main competitors in the mainstream CPU industry today, Intel and AMD.


Pentium 4 is Born

When Intel could not get any more life out of their P6 based processors they created the Netburst architecture, which was intended for high clock frequencies. The Netburst’s greatest difference from the P6 is the amount of stages in the pipeline. A CPU’s pipeline is not a physical pipe that data goes into and appears at the end of, instead it is a collection of “things to do†in order to execute instructions (Shimpi, 2005). Every instruction must go through the same steps, and these steps are called stages. The more pipeline stages there are, the less work is done per clock cycle and thus the higher a CPU is able to be clocked. Even though the P6 had a short 12-stage pipeline, it is no match for the Netburst Pentium 4’s of today which boast clock frequencies close to 4000Mhz, despite their lengthy 31-stage pipeline (Stokes,2002).

Pentium Pro
Clock Speed: 200Mhz
FSB: 66Mhz
Manufacured: 0.35-micron
Transistors: 5.5 million
L1 cache:16k
L2 cache: 28kb

Pentium 4 670
Clock Sped: 3800Mhz
FSB: 800Mhz
Manufactured: 0.09-micron
Transistors: 125 million
L1 cache: 512kb
L2 cache: 2mb


The latest Pentium 4’s boast a quad-pumped front-side-bus (4x200) and newer technology such as MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3 and Hyper Threading which is a technology used to help dealing with multiple software threads to help processors multitask more efficiently (Intel, 2005).


The Competition

Intel’s biggest and only surviving competitor today is Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). Although AMD’s processors used to be quite similar to Intel’s, with the introduction of the K8 architecture AMD has something of their own. AMD’s CPU’s have a unique instruction set known as AMD64 or x86-64. This is a 64-bit extension of the x86 platform which allows users to run both 32-bit and 64-bit applications at the same time. One benefit of this is that it allows a computer to address more than 4GB of RAM but there are other enhancements too; “64-bit computers can process numbers that are 4.3 billion times as large as those processed by their 32-bit counterparts†(Stokes, J, 2002).

Another new technology AMD implemented is HyperTransport which is used to connect the CPU and the chipset. In reality, this effectively moves the location of the Memory Controller Hub, which is used to facilitate communication between the CPU and main system RAM, from the NorthBridge to the CPU die itself (Shimpi, 2005).

The HyperTransport bus replaces the conventional bus and gives the Athlon 64 a 2000mhz (2x1000) front-side-bus. In order to lower memory latencies AMD moved the memory controller off the chipset and onto the CPU itself. This allows an Athlon 64 setup with single channel DDR RAM to perform on par with a comparable Pentium 4 system with dual channel DDR. Because of it’s 12-stage pipeline (as well as other factors), a 2000Mhz Athlon 64 can perform better than a higher clocked Pentium 4 (Shimpi, 2005).

Intel have since incorporated 64-bit technology into their own processors with Extended Memory 64 Technology, EM64T), which also enables 64-bit computing and improves on performance (Intel, 2005).


Dual Core

Both Intel and AMD have recently opted to release new processors with two cores. This is partly due to the fact that it is getting difficult to squeeze more transistors onto a single processing die. Having two processing cores is more beneficial than Intel’s earlier Hyper Threading Technology which is able to execute two software threads in parallel by splitting the single core processor into two logical cores. Intel’s dual core Pentium D’s are able to execute multiple software threads at the same time (Intel, 2005).

Intel have limited the fastest of their dual core Pentium D’s to 3200Mhz but clock speed should increase in the future. Though the Pentium D’s currently run at a slower clock than their single core kin, they are much better suited to multitasking (Intel, 2005).


Conclusions

Intel’s Pentium has made many progressions over the last decade or so with regards to processing power. However to maintain its foothold as the worlds biggest desktop CPU manufacturer, Intel will have to revise its choice of architecture as the Netburst has turned out to become too hot and power consuming when compared to AMD’s equivalent CPU’s. There are already new designs that should be released early next year called Dothan and Conroe (Intel, 2005).

Intel’s future processors should finally address the overheating problems of the current Pentium’s along with the problems incurred with having more stages in its CPU’s clock cycles than the AMD equivalent. Though it is highly likely that they will be marketed under a different product name, which in turn will most likely mean the end of the Pentium name.


References

Lampi, L., 2005, Intel’s Hyper Threading Technology: Free Performance in Anandtech
http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets...oc.html?i=1576
Accessed: 20/11/2005

Stokes, J., 2002, An Introduction To 64-bit Computing And X86-64 in Arstechnica
http://arstechnica.com/cpu/03q1/x86-64/x86-64-5.html
Accesed: 16/11/2005

Stokes, J., 2002, The Pentium: An Architectural History Of The Worlds Most Famous Desktop Processor in Arstechnica
http://arstechnica.com/articles/paed...entium-1.ars/1
Accessed: 16/11/2005

Stokes, J., 2002, Understanding The Microprocessor Part 1: Basic Computing Concepts in Arstechnica
http://arstechnica.com/paedia/c/cpu/part-1/cpu1-3.html
Accessed: 16/11/2005

tomshardware, 2005, Intel’s New Weapon: Pentium 4 Prescott
http://www.tomshardware.com/cpu/20040201/index.html
Accessed: 16/11/2005

Other websites Used;

www.Intel.com
www.AMD.com
post #2 of 7
that was great! unbiased too, w00t.

Very enjoyable reading thank you.
post #3 of 7
I'm pretty sure Intel had x86_64 instruction sets at the time...but I may be wrong..I know they had them pretty early, just nobody knew...lol.

OH well. Pretty good paper.
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post #4 of 7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sideburns View Post
I'm pretty sure Intel had x86_64 instruction sets at the time...but I may be wrong..I know they had them pretty early, just nobody knew...lol.
You're correct, but not for use in their desktop processors until the advent of EM64T.
post #5 of 7
Decent


So this is why you bash my article
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post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by iampoor View Post
Decent


So this is why you bash my article
I think constructive criticism can be healthy, especially in the combat of misinformation.
post #7 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by t4ct1c47 View Post
I think constructive criticism can be healthy, especially in the combat of misinformation.
Well I read your last post


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