Why would anyone want to buy a computer with an Intel processor instead of an AMD or a Motorola processor? Let’s look at some history to find out why Intel has the edge over the other two main processor manufactures.
In 1975 the main processors for home computers (the term PC was not used at this time) was either the 4 bit Motorola 6800 or the MOS (metal-oxide-semiconductor) Technology 6502, although these were true computers. They did not have keyboard or video, they relied on a TV to display the video and ‘Joy’ sticks to control the work. These were considered ‘Game’ machines. At the same time Texas Instruments was developing a system called the TI 99. It would debut in the late 1970’s and would introduce the external components for storage.
When IBM needed to compete with these ‘Game’ machines, they took it a step farther and went for big business. With the advent of the 8 bit 8088 processor from Intel, IBM created the first true personal computer (pc). Because this new computer would be a stand alone system it would require its own video and keyboard. It featured additional items such as a printer port, serial port, and a disk operating system (OS) that did not rely on a built in OS, which would be limited to the cmos (Complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) capacity of 4 to 8 kilobytes.
In actuality, the IBM pc was really a work of art. IBM would gather resources from across the country to produce the new wave in electronics. In Seattle, a young software engineer and his company would cash in by developing the Disk Operating System (DOS) from the CP-M OS for IBM to license. From Arizona, IBM would buy the Intel 8088 and then later the 8086 processor and associated I/O chips to build the computer. From New York, IBM would license the rights to the 180 kilobyte and then the 360 kilobyte floppy drive. From California, they would license different types of I/O chips for video, parallel, serial ports, and memory control.
When IBM introduced the IBM PC, there was no true competition. It may have cost a little more than a new car, but the business world needed this new tool to bring it out of the deep recession it had been in for the last seven years. This was not a game machine. It was not as fast as a mini (a mini computer is not as powerful as a main frame but has all the componets of a main frame), and not as powerful as a main frame, but it did have more than enough power to do word processing, complex math computations, and display the results on a video screen. It could also save the work to a floppy disk, or print out a hard copy of the document or results.
At the same time the Apple II, produced by Apple Computers, was running out of gas; it did not have the computing power of the IBM PC, though the video and floppy drive space was comparable. It just didn’t have enough steam. When Intel introduced the first 8 bit processor, the 8088, Motorola was also working on a 8n bit processor, the 68000. The Apple II used a 6502 processor and the Apple computer company wanted to bring out a new computer that would rival the IBM PC. The concept was to be the Mac, utilizing the Motorola 68000 processor, adding the video to the case, and a higher capacity floppy drive. The Mac would also introduce us to the GUI (Graphical User Interface) and the pointing device called a Mouse.
In 1981 Apple was already playing catch up, and they were behind the IBM PC by about two years, and in the fast pace of computer technology, two years is the same as two decades. Even with the innovation incorportated into the Mac (the GUI from Xerox, all the componets in one case) , Apple could not over come Big Blue. The battle over the PC market share was on. The first battle would go to IBM, and the next two would go to Apple. But in the end, he who maintains the lead in the technology will prevail.
In 1981 AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) will enter the processor production fray. A medium sized company that produced Integrated Chips (ICs) for different applications, they did not produce any processors. IBM’s commitment to build PC’s was growing at a phenomenal rate. They were out-pacing Intel’s productivity; Intel needed a partner to produce the 8086 and associated chips. To keep up with IBM’s demand, Intel inked a deal with AMD to co-produce the 8086 and the 8086 Co-Processor. By now there were other manufactures making PCs. These would be almost identical to the IBM PC, and were called ‘Clones.’ These would also use the Intel 8086.
When Intel introduced the 80286 processor in 1982, they would give a big boost to the PC. The demand would again out-strip Intel’s production capacity, even with new plants coming on line. Intel would again go to AMD and ink a deal for them to co-produce the 286 processor and co-processor. This is when AMD infringed upon Intel’s copyright and produced its fist independent processor. The AMD processor would be a little faster than the Intel 286 but will have the same features and command set. Intel filed a copy right infringement suit against AMD.
Big Blue was losing out on two fronts: the clone makers and the Mac. IBM needed something to boost sales, and at this time there was nothing on the horizon. IBM, Intel, and Microsoft created a consortium to create two things: A GUI to rival Mac and a processor that would out run the latest Motorola processor. This would create the Windows environment and the 386 processor. Motorola and Apple were not resting on their collective laurels, Motorola will introduce the first in a series of 68000 processors, and Apple introduced the Mac II. AMD was still smarting from their loss to Intel, and did not have an answer to the 386 or the 68000 processors. Even with the increase in computing power and Windows, the IBM/Intel/Microsoft consortium lost this battle to the Mac II.
This is where life for the computer user got really interesting. The computer wars were producing new technology at an ever faster rate. With IBM/Apple and Intel/Motorola fighting for the largest market share, the cost of a PC (Intel based only) had dropped to less than one thousand dollars (if you bought a Clone or you built it yourself). There would be a boom in the computer manufacture business from different countries. The manufacture that could produce the cheapest motherboard for an Intel processor would sell more than those that were more expensive; this left the clone producers in a quandary. If they built cheap, then they would get a bad name, and this is exactly what happened. Clone computers were a dirty word for a long time; they utilized cheap parts that did not hold up under normal conditions. The fall out over the cheap parts would kill off most clone computer manufactures. There would be some survivors, Compaq, Acer, and HP would survive the ‘Clone Wars’ of the early 1990’s. To add to this Apple did not allow anyone to copy the Mac hardware or OS. They actively pursued any offenders, making the Mac a very proprietary computer. Any add-on components had to pass Apple’s scrutiny and there were very few takers for manufacturing additional components for the Mac. Most Mac components were either manufactured by Apple or licensed by Apple, making the field of competition in the Mac area very small.
The race was heating up. Apple had the newest 68000 processor; it had a new video card that could display 16 million colors. Apple would make a tactical error, they did not rename their computer, and they left the Mac II moniker on the new system. Intel introduced the 486 processor in 1989. Apple was left in the dust; their new Mac II is still running at less than 33 Mega Hertz. Meanwhile, Motorola was having its own production problems with the 68000 processors; they were having extreme heat build up that was causing the processor to fail prematurely. AMD was still reverse-engineering the Intel processors, but this was soon to change.
Intel was moving forward; they had cracked the nana barrier and could now produce a processor that had over 1 million transistors. The new 486DX processor had the ability to be ‘over clocked,’ meaning that if the processor was rated at 33 Mega Hertz and the motherboard manufacture had designed it into their product, you could get 40 to 45 Mega Hertz from the processor without damaging it. Motorola was almost out of the processor game, they were not producing any new processor lines, though they would from time to time redsign their 68000 to run a little faster. AMD, on the other hand, was working diligently at producing their next generation processor called the K5.
When Intel introduced the Pentium in 1993, there was a quantum leap in performance. The fist processor to have the co- processor that was integrated, thus reducing the need for extra space and copper traces on the motherboard. After losing part of the battle in the courts with AMD, they lost the right to patent the numbers 586, thus the Pentium was named. AMD on the other hand, would lose the patent infringment and was forced to design their own processors.
There was a big controversy brewing at Intel, they were selling Pentium processors where the co-processor function was disabled, but they were not telling anyone about it! To counter the bad publicity, Intel introduced the Celeron. The Celeron was a chip set where the co-processor (FPU – Floating Point Unit) had failed during manufacture, because Intel was having production problems during the first Pentium production runs. The co-processor did not always work, so they disabled the co-processor and sold it as the Celeron at a cheaper price. This was economically more viable than throwing away a complete production run because of a design flaw. Motorola was at a loss to keep up; they would not put anymore money into research and development for the 68000 line of processors. This pushed Apple to the brink, to compete with the Intel computer manufactures they would have to go with Intel procssors. At this point, a ringer emerged on scene: the AMD K5. AMD had stopped reverse-engineering the Intel processors and had designed its own processor using a RISC core to decode the instruction set in order to make it compatible with the Intel instruction set known as x86. The AMD K5 was popular because it was cheaper, but it had design flaws and would cause the computer to crash at inopertune times. This would upset some customers and would cause AMD to lose faith from the computer industry. AMD had not learned what the clone motherboard manufactures did during the early years. They would remain the number three manufacturer of processors for sometime to come. The Pentium would push the personal computer closer to the computing power of the Mini. Processes that were once the realm of the Mini and Main frame computers are now sitting on your desk.
As we move forward in the computing world there have emerged two distinct processors: the Intel line and the AMD line. Motorola has moved on to bigger and better things…
IBM (Big Blue), who started the revolution in PCs, has sold out and no longer manufactures PCs. Apple is struggling to keep their doors open and rely on gadgets to keep afloat; the Mac is all but history. Xerox the company that invented the GUI struggles along making copiers. Compaq was bought up by HP; Acer has changed hands so many times it isn’t listed on NASDQ. Dell also struggles along; the server side of their manufacturing is keeping them alive.
So we ask ourselves, “Intel or AMD?” Both are fine products. AMD has all but gotten over its bad reputation; they are still behind in the research and development of nano technology. Because they haven’t broken the nano barrier, their processors are bulkier, run hotter, and consume more power. They have, however, produced a 64 bit processor. Intel, on the other hand, has produced faster processors in the native x86 mode and created the first duo and quad core processors. The Intel processors consume less power and thus produce less heat. Heat causes the silicon to break down, and when the silicon breaks down you get a short, a short accros the transistors will cause the processor to litterly burn up.
To this end, the Intel duo processor is a better solution than the AMD processor. As the clock speed of the processor increases, so does the power consumption, and of course heat. With the nano technology barrier broken in the Intel processors, the heat is less of a problem. The new challenge in increasing speed lies in the materials the processor is made of: copper, silver, aluminum, and gold. To get the electrons flowing faster than they are now, there has to be an innovation in the actual manufacturing of the processor. I believe Intel will make that breakthrough.
By Ben Lars