x86 ISA Still Strong

Aron Schatz
April 3, 2007
Tags CPU x86

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It is simply amazing to see that due to many pieces of legacy software, we are stuck with chips that are based on 1970's technology. The 8086 was released in 1978 and introduced the x86 architecture. Years and years later, we are still using it.


"It was originally thought about as an eight-bit chip (Intel's and Advanced Micro Devices' current chips are 64-bits) designed to run spreadsheets," said Phil Hester, chief technology officer at AMD. Accordingly, the original design lacked support for, among other things, an appropriate number of general-purpose registers that would be needed for the modern computing era. Registers are essentially small holding stations for data as it awaits processing, and general-purpose registers are useful because they can store either data or an address where that data is stored. As the number of people using PCs made by IBM and so-called clone manufacturers grew, the x86 became the irreplaceable heart of the PC market. In the mid-1990s, Intel's entry into the server market with x86 chips cemented the ISA's dominance. Today, more than 90 percent of all servers shipped in the world use an x86 processor from either Intel or AMD.


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