March 31st, 2010 ~ by admin

The Origin of ARM – New Finds for the Museum

I’ve posted a fair amount about ARM processors, as today, they are in about everything. That was not always the case. ARM began with a small British company called Acorn Computers, who made various computers such as the BBC Micro (6502 based). They began developing a RISC processor in 1983 with their silicon partner VLSI. We recently received a few early versions of the ARM so here they are, with a brief history.

VLSI VL2333-QC 8MHz ARM1 CPU circa 1988

By 1985 they had the first working silicon of the ARM1 processor, a full 32bit design. It had around 25,000 transistors (compared with the earlier Motorola 68000 which had 70,000) so was relatively cheaper.

VLSI VL86C010-16PSQC 16MHz ARM2 CPU

VLSI VL86C010-16PSQC 16MHz ARM2 CPU circa 1990 - Prototype

The next year the released the ARM2 processor, which added a hardware multiply instruction and ran at 8MHz. It had around 30,000 transistors.

VLSI VY86C610C 30MHz ARM610 CPU circa 1994

VLSI VY86C610C 30MHz ARM610 CPU circa 1994

In 1994 the ARM6 was released with higher clocks (up to 60MHz) and more features.  The rest as we say is history, with many many varieties of cores available, at speeds over 1GHz, but STILL very small footprints. The ARM cores are licenses to hundreds of companies worldwide, and used in millions of devices, and it all began almost 30 years ago.

1 Response to The Origin of ARM – New Finds for the Museum

  1. John Biggs

    Hi,

    Just thought you might like to know that VL2333 is in fact an early part number for ARM2 not ARM1 – the ARM1 was marked VC2588 “Autumn”.

    Also ARM1 was earlier than 1988 – in fact it was the worlds first commercially available RISC CPU and, according to the Champagne bottle opened at the time, sprang in to life on April 26th 1985 at 3pm. Similarly ARM2 was 1987, not 1990…

    –John

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