The Pentium Processor is Dead

  • Comments: 0
  • Written on: July 28th, 2006


Born: 1993
Died: 2006

May the processor that changed
the world rest in peace

Adios. Its over. No more Blueman Group, no more Weird Al Yankovic songs, no more MMX – Pentium is dead. The Pentium-Class processor officially ended its 13-year run as Intel’s flagship processor today, while its replacement, the Core 2 Duo, takes center stage.

When the Pentium processor was released in 1993, it revolutionized the world of computing. Intel’s unique microarchitecture allowed a processor to complete tens of thousands of instructions much more quickly than its predecessor, the 486dx. Rivals soon fell by the wayside as the Pentium overdrive processor boosted processing speeds to a staggering (at the time) 90 MHz. Technologies like MMX allowed for more detailed graphic processing than ever. The Pentium processor was a recommended system requirement for Windows 95, and the world took its first toddler steps into home supercomputing.

Intel continued to chase MHz ratings as a way of benchmarking the performance of its processors into the mid 1990’s. The microchip market witnessed the death by fire of the Cyrix processor (if you have ever installed a Cyrix processor you understand the pun here) and AMD pulled up as Intel’s only competitor of note. Intel was incrementally ratcheting up the MHz speed and avoided a publicity liability by labeling their 666 MHz processor as 667 MHz. No one seemed to mind the small fib, and Intel certainly didn’t mind avoiding a satanic stigma.

The Pentium eventually gave way to the Pentium II, which topped out at 450 MHz. Then that record fell to the Pentium III and eventually the Pentium IV. As Intel began to reach the limits of how many MHz it could squeeze out of the Pentium architecture, its rival AMD started working on processors that completed more calculations per MHz, and therefore could do more work that a Pentium processor of the same (or greater) speed. AMD started closing on the Pentium fast with its Athlon line of processors.

Eventually AMD would widely surpass Intel’s performance with the release of the Athlon 64 processor. But Intel held to its guns, promising a whole new kind of processor that would once again change the world.

That processor has been officially released as the Core 2 Duo Processor, and it should be available for widespread purchase by Christmas this year. With Windows Vista coming in January, many analysts say this could be 1993 all over again. New processor, new Windows, and perhaps the grand child of the Pentium will take the torch of a new computing generation. Amazing advances are promised, but with AMD hinting about a few surprises of its own, only time will tell.

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