From the introduction of the counting frame, or more popularly known as the abacus1, it was realized that the creation of a tool that is able assist in mathematical calculations will greatly increase productivity and efficiency needs of man2. The use of abaci continued for numerous centuries up to the years when early calculators made use of hole-placements in a dial to signify a count—similar to that of a rotary dial telephone3. As the years progressed people needed more. It was seen that the simple addition, subtraction, and multiplication functions were not enough.
The need for memory storage features arose. People at that time perceived the abacus, comptometers, Napier’s bones, books of mathematical tables, slide rules, and other manual tool used for computing as tedious and error-prone2. From this need came the development of the early non-electronic computers. From the making of the first digital electronic computer by John V. Atanasoff, to the use of vacuum tubes in 1950, the early designs of computers were used in a variety of processes.
They varied from decoding German messages during World War II, up to calculating the presidential election returns in the 1940’s. Although the latter function was not trusted by TV networks, people were amazed at the capabilities of these machines4. In 1971 the first microprocessor was patented by Gilbert Hyatt at Micro Computer4. Making use of small number-holding areas known as registers, microprocessors were designed to perform not just arithmetic but also logic operations5. Regular microprocessor functions include adding, subtracting, comparing two numbers, and fetching numbers from one area to another5.
It was during this time that two of the largest microprocessor companies today, namely Intel and Advanced Micro Devices developed its first microprocessor5. Founded in 1968, Intel had one main objective: To make semiconductor memory more practical. In 1971 Intel released its first microprocessor – the 4004 microcomputer. Smaller than a thumbnail, it contained 2,300 transistors and was able to complete sixty thousand operations in a second. After the release of the 4004 microcomputer, Intel then released the 8008 version. This newer version is now capable of accomplishing twice the capabilities of its predecessor.
A company by the name of International Business Machines (IBM) took notice of Intel’s dedication to microprocessor development and chose Intel’s 8088 chip for the CPU of their first ever personal computer. In 1982 the acclaimed 286 chip finished development. This time, Intel’s newest product contained 134,000 transistors and executed three times the performance, not of its 4004 chip ancestor, but its current competitors. Intel continued its commitment to microprocessor development when it introduced the 386 microprocessor in 1986, and following with the 486 chip in 1989.
The latter Intel product was fifty times faster than the 4004 chip and is capable of matching the performance of a powerful mainframe computer. The famous Pentium name was introduced in 1993. Rated to be five times faster than the 486 processor, it contained 3. 3 million transistors and is able to process ninety million instructions per second. In the mid-1990’s Intel strayed from its tradition and did not introduce another chip model, this time an enhancement to multimedia performance was added to its line of products – the MMX.
This new Intel breakthrough was bundled with the Pentium line of microprocessors making it run faster when managing multimedia applications. According to Intel, a computer with an MMX microprocessor runs a multimedia application up to sixty percent faster than a computer with a microprocessor having the same clock speed but without the Pentium MMX microchip22. Throughout these years Intel’s dedication has been praised by many. The microprocessor company followed with the release of several lines of processors such as the Celeron, the P2, the P3, and the P47.
To date Intel’s latest brainchild is the Quad-Core processor technology. The multinational company brands its Quad-Core microprocessor as “The Ultimate multi-core performance”. This innovative piece of technology is basically designed for desktop personal computers. Enabled with a powerful multi-core technology, the Quad-Core chip is designed to handle immense computation and visualization workloads. Providing all the bandwidth needed by users, the latest four-core Intel Core 2 Quad micro-architecture provides a faster, cooler, and quieter desktop and workstations.
The unparalleled performance of the Intel Core 2 Quad processor is achieved by each of the four complete execution cores providing the full power of Intel Core micro-architecture. With this, more instructions can be achieved per clock cycle, shorter and wider pipelines read and implement commands more quickly, and improved bus lanes move data throughout the system faster. As Intel has declared on their webpage, “This quad-core processor represents Intel’s continued leadership and drive of multi-core processing and more parallel computing”8.
The microprocessor company continues to elaborate that the latest versions, developed around Intel’s 45nm manufacturing technology, take the stated benefits to “a whole new level”. This new technology utilizes hafnium-infused Hi-k transistors, providing even more processor performance by doubling the transistor density, improving efficiency and speed relative to the previous generation, and increasing cache size by up to 50 percent. As a result the Quad-Core microprocessors are able “to deliver more performance without using more energy”8.
On the other side of the microprocessor industry, a company called Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) continuously raises its bar to actively compete with Intel’s microprocessor products. This American based company was actually started on May 1, 1969 in one of the co-founders’ living rooms. Simply put, AMD’s mission was to establish a successful semiconductor company. By September on the same year, the co-founders had enough money to establish their first office located at 901 Thompson Place in Sunnyrak. At the end of 1974, AMD was able to employ around one thousand five hundred employees able to produce more than two hundred varying products.
In their first five years, the semiconductor company was able to gain $26. 5 million in their annual sales. AMD was able to keep a steady growth until 1986 when Japanese semiconductor companies began dominating the industry. As a result AMD had to develop strategies and ways to for them to stay in the business and compete. Their solution was to build its submicron capability with the Submicron Development Center. Due to this aggressive move, AMD’s presence in the market led to the making of microprocessors compatible to IBM personal computers.
From 1995 to 1999 AMD grew mainly due to their competitive product lines10. Much like Intel, AMD started with the 286 microprocessor which was also named 8086 and 8088. In 1986 the chip company then started manufacturing 286 processors for IBM, but with hesitation. This uncertainty came from IBM’s preference of Intel products over AMD’s. In the mid 1980’s IBM maintained a requirement that two chip suppliers should be considered before choosing what parts are to be included in their personal computers. As a result Intel denied AMD of the design of the 386 architecture.
AMD challenged Intel’s stand and won in arbitration. After Intel reportedly disagreed with the decision, a long legal dispute followed which ended in 1994 in favor of AMD. Following this victory, AMD launched its version of the 386 microprocessor. This new chip was not as successful compared to its Intel counterpart mainly due to the reason that Intel’s version was released years before AMD’s 386 release. After a few years, the AM486 was developed and used by numerous original equipment manufacturers (OEM), including Compaq. This strategy proved to be successful and increase AMD’s market share.
After the success of the AM486, AMD then came up with the AM586 chipset and continued to be triumphant as the “low-priced alternative”19. In 1996 AMD launched the K5 chip – its first in-house x86 processor. The “K” in the microprocessor’s name was derived from fictional rock “Kryptonite”, which from comic book lore, was the only material which could weaken and ultimately harm Superman. AMD’s claim was that their K5 chip is product that can finally weaken and conquer Intel. In June of 1999, AMD introduced their K7 processor under the brand Athlon, which meant “Champion/trophy of the games” in ancient Greek wording19.
In cooperation with Motorola, AMD was able to improve copper interconnectivity to the production stage one year ahead of Intel. This meant that the production of an even faster processor is now a possibility. As the die of the microprocessor shrunk, so does the power consumption. This permitted AMD to increase the Athlon clock speeds up to the 1GHz range. They found the yields on the new processes exceeded expectations, and launched these high speed chips in volume in March 200021. Answering to Intel’s challenge for the ultimate microprocessor, AMD engineers gave birth to the Phenom II microprocessor.
AMD puts it that the “AMD Phenom™ II is designed and intended for high definition entertainment, gaming, creativity, and beyond”. AMD further boasts that users will “enjoy a new level of responsiveness and visual intensity”. The Phenom features the next generation quad-core technology designed to withstand what AMD terms as the most demanding CPU tasks. Making use of AMD’s excellence in energy efficiency, they bundled all of the latest technology that offers users performance when needed and save power simultaneously10. AMD’s lead product to date is the Phenom II processor.
Based from the word “phenomenon”, AMD considers the quad-core Phenom to be the first “true quad-core design” due to its monolithic multi-core design18. It is the first microprocessor that is able to break the 5 GHz barrier. An article of John Messina tackles the possibility of stretching the core speed of AMD’s Phenom II up to 6 GHz. Although he adds that this procedure would entail a very efficient cooling system. Normal air cooling system can support the Phenom II until 4 GHz. Installing a dry ice cooling system could support an over-clock up to 5 GHz.
He predicts that at 6 GHz, a user may need to employ the use of a liquid nitrogen cooling system. The Phenom II is scheduled to be released in the first quarter of 2009 and will be listed to run at 3. 0 GHz as its stock processing speed20. Mainly designed for desktop computers its price was intended to be price competitive with Intel’s Core 2 Duo and Quad microprocessors. Among all the competition between microprocessors industries, nothing has captured the world’s attention more than the Intel-AMD rivalry. As seen in numerous internet forums, the said competition completion has become a favorite topic.
One can actually attempt to key-in the names Intel and AMD and be able to list more than a hundred websites tackling the famous competition between Intel and AMD microprocessor. Any customer can enter computer shops and find both companies’ products and realize they basically have the same features and technologies. Further readings indicate that given the same technology that Intel and AMD uses, they do differ in aspects that true computer enthusiasts can only sense. Intel microprocessors are basically superior to that of AMD’s10. One outright advantage is the performance stability.
AMD processors tend to give users issues with hang-up problems. Blue screens appear more often while using AMD than with Intel. Internet forums tackling this AMD dilemma charge the issue to what computer enthusiasts as “Over-Clocking” – the process of using a computer at a higher clock rate that it was designed for13. Another Intel advantage is its ability to dissipate heat. Apparently, AMD processors simply reach its threshold temperature more often and faster than Intel. This has been the problem with AMD processors for its past line of products.
As a counter-measure, users purchase additional auxiliary fans in order to control the heat inside the computer chamber. Others acquire specialized heat-sinks that are able to handle the heat generated by the processor. Although the multi-core processors of Intel were known for consuming a large amount of power, and consequently producing more heat, the architecture of their microprocessors made sure of an improved thermal handling output performance. Third in the list of Intel’s advantages is the overall low power consumption. Tests have shown that Intel’s range of microprocessor products consume less power compared to AMD14.
This is a possible explanation to the impressive heat performance of Intel – less power consumed translates to less overall heat produced by the processor. Given the fact that most polls vote Intel’s microprocessors to be superior over AMD’s, there are still notable aspects where AMD can be commended for winning over Intel. According the Tweaktown website, Intel has indeed succeeded in developing powerful microprocessor cores, but failed to recognize the capabilities of less powerful AMD microprocessors. When slower AMD products are “over-clocked” they actually exceed the speeds that the latest Intel chips are hitting15.
Another advantage of AMD microprocessors is its market price. As seen in the updated quotation from PC Express, Intel’s top of the line Quad-Core processor is priced at Php15,540. While the AMD version is sold at Php10,150. Given the price advantage and the upgrade advantages of AMD, it is not a surprise to observe AMD’s growth in the microprocessor business. Another notable feature of AMD chipsets is that its ability to run quietly. Considering the general fact that higher performance processor need bigger fans, AMD was able to design their chipsets for optimum performance while keeping processor noise down to a minimum.
Fourth in the advantage list for AMD over Intel is it gaming capabilities and compatibilities. During the time when Intel was coping with heat, power consumption, and performance issues, AMD developed its 64-bit line of processors. This allowed gamers to take advantage more powerful 64-bit codes in their systems, which mainly includes games. AMD’s gaming reputation quickly rose and was branded as “the processor of choice for computer gaming and computer hardware enthusiasts”.
The power of AMD’s processors, through the use of the 64-bit chips, proved to be very beneficial for users to disregard, and this was even accentuated in 2005 when the company released the first dual-core processors to the market. After this revolution from AMD, Intel has been lagging with regards to hardware availability and compatibility17. In an article posted on the internet, Selseo. com iterates there have been discoveries that there have been some considerable benefits of using AMD-based on personal computers.
First of which is the “pure power edge” that AMD has accomplished. While Intel could always be acclaimed for performance superiority over AMD at the high end processors, another internet site reports that this is no longer the case. In completing a comparison between AMD’s dual core Athlon FX-60 processor and Intel’s Pentium Extreme Edition, the reviewer writes, “With the exception of a few audio and video encoding benchmarks, the Athlon 64 FX-60 represents the new device to beat as far as performance goes, thanks to its two processing cores. Additionally, the reviewer states that the popularization of utilizing dual graphics cards configurations denotes that AMD processors are great options for the best possible 3D gaming experience. Clearly AMD and Intel have achieved great technological heights with their competition. Speed and performance barriers are broken after each microprocessor company launches a new product. Along with these achievements new applications are seen and old functions are improved. It can be assumed that there is no limit to the design capabilities of these companies.
From mainframe computers which occupy practically meters of office area to microprocessors smaller than a thumb nail. From computers capable of performing hundreds of operations in a second to super computers that execute millions of instructions at the same rate, these technological tools have proven indispensable to man’s need for information, automation, and entertainment. While users admire the current breakthroughs of Intel and AMD, they cannot expect these companies to cease their product innovation. Competition will continue and simply benefit one obvious recipient – the users themselves.