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Re: old intel processors (was Re: Compaq?intel vs API ...)

"Robert M. Riches Jr." wrote:
> > From: alvin <alvin@iplink.net>
> > Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2001 17:09:10 -0400
> >
> > Does anybody remember the intel product iapx423(I think the prefix may
> > be wrong). After spending large numbers of Millions of dollars they took
> > what they learned and made it the 286.
> That's sort-of close but a ways off from actual history.
> The iAPX 432 effort started up around or shortly after 1975.  It
> was a 32-bit ultra-CISC architecture, with _no_ registers at all.
> The instruction stream was bit-addressed, which required a huge
> extractor/rotator in the instruction decoder.  There was
> essentially no assembly language (other than Ada).  Here's a
> quote from an Intel publication: "8086 (1978): Intel's new 16-bit
> architecture, originally designed to fill the gap while waiting
> for completion of the 32-bit iAPX 432 CPU, ..."  The 432 was way
> ahead of its time in many ways.  In hindsight, in other ways, it
> was not on the right track.  The 432 development effort ended
> shortly after 1983.  The 432 effort and various X86 efforts of
> the time undoubtedly cross-pollinated.

I have one of the few manuals for the 432. We were looking to work with
it but it never became a reality. I think they had some protptype
silocon running at 200Khz. This was in the days when other processors
were running in the 1-4 Mhz range. After the dust settled the Intel
sales staff tried to sell us on the 286. If you look at the way the
memory is managed and the OS levels are handled you can see a lot of
paralles in the 432 design. The 386 is far more true to the OS
partitioning scheme.

We then moved on to the NS16000 later to become the NS32000. Well where
are they now :( It was a nice VAX inspired CPU and a real joy to work
with. Still have one in the basement.
> You might actually be thinking of the 80960 architecture.
> There's a whole book on the 80960 architecture, if you can find a
> copy.  It is by Glen Myers and Dave Budde.

I fell out of touch with what intel was doing when the 960 came along so
I did not comment much on it. My feeling was that they wanted to go
after the workstation market but could not make a go of it with SUN and
MIPS being the big boys in that arena. But that is only my impresson and
should not carry much weight.
> The first 960 chip was contemporary with the 386, taping out
> about 3 months after the 386.  It had originally been designed
> with a byte-addressable very CISC instruction set, but it was
> changed to a RISC instruction set late in the design after it was
> found that the instruction decoder wouldn't fit on the die (along
> with the rest of the design), even at the largest die size that
> could be made on the equipment available for the process of that
> time.  This first 960 chip had about 1.4X the transistors of the
> 386 and was rougly 2X as fast.
> The second pair of 960 chips were superscalar.  They were roughly
> contemporary with the first Pentium (trademark and so on).  They
> were (of course) much faster than the first 960 chip.
> The 960 architecture was actually a _VERY_ nice 32-bit (and
> 33-bit) architecture, with four levels of the architecture.  At
> the high end, it was designed to do rather elaborate object-based
> capability-based addressing and protection.  At the low end, for
> embedded use, it could be done without floating point or address
> translation of any kind.
> The design of the floating point unit from the first 960 chip
> found its way (with a few tweaks) into the 387 math coprocessor,
> and probably heavily influenced the 486's FP unit.  There was
> sharing of ideas and some raw technology between the X86 and 960
> groups over the years.
> In about 1991, the Oregon 960 design group was disbanded and many
> of the engineers worked on the P6 (Pentium Pro).  Some members of
> this group had already done the 486DX2 and a few other
> proliferation chips.
> I worked in the 960 chip design group from 1983 to 1992, then
> (with no love for the X86 architecture) on the P6 and Pentium 4
> group until 2000.  I use a UP2000 at home.  I find it sad to see
> superior architectures die for marketing and political reasons.
> Thanks for listening to today's history lesson.  :-)

The history is interesting. Thanks.

Alvin Starr                   ||   voice: (416)585-9971
Interlink Connectivity        ||   fax:   (416)785-3668
alvin@iplink.net              ||

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