Archive for the 'CPU of the Day' Category

July 10th, 2014 ~ by admin

CPU of the Day: NEC 78C11 Sample and the 78K family

NEC uPD78C11 ES for Mask ROM

NEC uPD78C11 ES for Mask ROM

Most microcontrollers store the program they run in ROM, most of the time this ROM takes the form of a Mask ROM.  This means that its set at the factory when the die is being made, one layer (or more) of the die contains the ROM and the program is hardcoded into the device.  Development versions almost always exist that allow programs to be developed before the mass produced Mask ROM chip, but still the mask must be tested.

This is such an example from NEC.  It is a engineering sample of a uPD78C11 made in 1988.  the 78C11 (and many others in the 78k family) used a 64 pin QUIP (Quad Inline Package),  The 2 rows of staggered pins allowed for a 64 pin DIP in a much smaller foot print.  The only problem was these chips are extremely delicate.  They were designed to be soldered in and never removed.  The standard package was plastic, but for the sake of testing, these are ceramic (its a bid easier to place/bond the dies on small batches on a ceramic package)

The NEC 78k family was and continues to be very popular.  Its current version (the RL78) is made by Renesas, which was formed when Mitsubishi, Hitachi, and NEC joined their semiconductor businesses.  78K processors powered everything from word processors to washing machines and sewing machines.  Now they are also commonly found in automotive applications.

NEC uPD7811G - 1988

NEC uPD7811G – 1988

Like many modern microcontroller families the NEC 78k traces its lineage back to the 1970′s.  The family first appeared in 1980 as the uPD7801.  The 7801 was a microcomputer based on the NEC 780 which was NEC’s version of the Zilog Z80.  The 781x series released in 1982 expanded on the architecture by including an ADC, as well as a full 16-bit ALU (versus the 8-bit from the 780 and 780x) that even supported 16-bit multiply and divide.  The 16-bit ALU made it a simple task for NEC to again extend the architecture to a 16-bit version.  The instruction set was similar, though the naming was different then the Z80.  In 1985 NEC moved the 78k line to a CMOS process, reducing power requirements and increasing the max clock from 12 to 15MHz.

The inclusion of many peripherals made the 78k a popular choice for many embedded applications.  Its continued availability, and wide code base have allowed it to continue to thrive.  And once again, a ‘modern’ MCU is based on a design from the 1970′s.  Processor architectures rarely die, they just continue morphing.

June 12th, 2014 ~ by admin

Early Unfinished Ceramic DIP Package

Package 22 CDIP inFrameMost all IC manufacturers do not make their own packaging.  Raw packages are purchased form package suppliers such as Kyocera and NGK (among many others).  The die is installed, bonded, wired, and tested, and then shipped.  This is an early unfinished 22 pin white ceramic DIP.  This is typical construction from the 1960′s and 1970′s.  The package is supplied as a flat, with the leads straight out and unbent.  All the leads are connected by the ‘lead frame’.  The lead frame keeps the leads straight during die placement and handling.  Only once the die is installed, and the bonding wires connected are the leads (soon to be pins) cut free from the lead frame.   The bottom of the die cavity is connected to the ground pin, and the die is affixed to the package with a conductive resin.  Typically one of the pads on the top of the die will also be connected to the same ground pin.

After the die is affixed and wired, the device is tested and the leads are bent to form a standard DIP package.  In some cases the leads are left unbent and the package becomes a type of surface mount package.  A cap is soldered (or s0metimes brazed) over the die cavity, markings applied and then the device is ready to ship.

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May 26th, 2014 ~ by admin

Memorial Day Chip: Motorola 6800/BQCJC 8-Bits of Military spec

Motorola 6800/BQCJC - Mil-spec 6800 from 1985

Motorola 6800/BQCJC – Mil-spec 6800 from 1985

The Motorola MC6800 was Motorola’s first full 8-bit processor.  Introduced in 1974 it was a very good processor, and at the time it did not have a lot of competition, mainly the Intel 8080 and 8008.  Within 2 years though it was competing against the 6502. the 1802, the Z80 and a host of other processors.

This particular example was made in 1985 and is a MIL-STD-883 rated device for use in high reliability military applications.

But the 1980s 8-bit designs were surpassed by 16 and 32-bit designs for most computer use, leaving the 8-bit MC6800 to largely be relegated to use in embedded application and microcontroller work.   Motorola made several version of the 6800 specifically for use as MCUs, the 6802, the widely used 6805 (and its CMOS version the 68HC05) and the 68HC08.  All of which are still in use today, 40 years after Motorola made the first 6800.  The 6800 (and its derivatives also continue to be used as IP cores, read for dropping into ASIC/FPGA designs.  Just this year Digital Core Designs added the 68HC08 to their library of available IP cores.

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May 14th, 2014 ~ by admin

Mystery Intel Engineering Sample

Here is a very unusual Engineering Sample from Intel.  These were manufactured in 1996 with a 1994 copyright date.  They are slightly smaller then a Socket 5 Pentium and are a  325 pin SPGA package.

Intel KJ8TSMR00-BA - Engineering Sample

Intel KJ8TSMR00-BA – Engineering Sample

Marked KJ8TSMR00-BA the best guess so far is a early P6 (Pentium Pro) core, without the L2 cache.  If you have any ideas, feel free to post in the comments.

April 29th, 2014 ~ by admin

CPU of the Day: Xionics XipChip1

Xionics XipChip1

Xionics XipChip1

It was the late 90s and high integration was the name of the game. Xionics (based in Burlington, Mass) and IBM set out to create an intelligent peripheral controller meant to replace logic/ASICs in printers, copiers, and other imaging products with something more useful.  Xionics was originally founded in 1978 in the U.K.  and in the 1980s began making document imaging products.

The XipChip1 is what they came up with. It is a PowerPC 401 core, running at 40MHz with 2KB I Cache + 1KB D Cache made on a 0.36u 4-Layer CMOS process at IBMs plant in Bromont Canada. They included a JPEG engine, DMA controller, Raster Graphics Engine, and a 240MHz RAMBUS controller (hey it was the 90s, RAMBUS was all the rage).  Xionics sold their technology to a number of printer companies (Ricoh, Panasonic, Xerox, HP and many others) and their software was widely adopted. By 1999 Xionics was bought out by Oak Technology which was acquired by Zoran in 2003.

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April 7th, 2014 ~ by admin

HP C5061-3012 16-bit Processor

HP C5061-3012 - 16 Bit - 4  MHz - 1984

HP C5061-3012 – 16 Bit – 4 MHz – 1984

In last months article on HP’s 16 bit processors we mentioned it was made in a reduced version (on an enhanced NMOS III process).  This CPU was known as the C5061-3012.  It contains only a BPC (Binary Processor Chip) and no EMC or IOC.  It was meant for simpler designs, such as a tape controller, but also in some other HP test equipment.  While a simpler implementation, it would seem that HP chose to continue the use of rather beautiful, and highly delicate packaging.  This example was made in 1984, a time when most other ICs were grey ceramic or plastic, not a white/gold ceramic package.

This was meant to mounted to a heatsink, which dissipated the heat as well as protected the wafer this ceramic (the package, other than where the die is, is less than 1mm thick)

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March 28th, 2014 ~ by admin

Motorola 68020 Processor die shots and description

1985 production 68020 'XC' denotes a not fully qualified device.

1985 production 68020 ‘XC’ denotes a not fully qualified device.

In 1979 Motorola wow’d the world with the introduction of the MC68000 MACSS (Motorola Advanced Computer System on Silicon).  One of the first single chip 32-bit processors.  In 1982 the design was upgraded and revised, and released as the 68010.  Performance wasn’t that much better then the original 68k so it saw much smaller adoption.

In 1984 Motorola continued the 68k line with the 68020.  Speed was greatly improved, up to 33MHz.  It was originally made on a 2 micron HCMOS process, allowing the design to use 200,000 transistors and integrate additional addressing modes, co-processor support, and multi-processor support.

The Swedish Computer archeology blog Ehliar has a nice article and die shots on its architecture and design.  Check it out.

March 18th, 2014 ~ by admin

The Forgotten Ones: HP D5061-30xx Processors

HP D5061-3001 - 10MHz 24,000 Transistors

HP D5061-3001 – 10MHz 24,000 Transistors

40+ Years after computer processors began to be made, there are several that stick in peoples minds as ‘the greats’ as being somehow more important then others.  Processors such as the Intel 4004, the MOS 6502 of Apple fame, and the Motorola 6800 have taken histories podium as the most important.

The truth, however, is a bit different, yet no less exciting.  There are those processors that at their time, were vastly ahead of their time, such technological marvels that they continued to be competitive for a decade, impressive today, nearly unheard of in the 1970′s.  Some of these processors never saw wide use in PCs, such as the 1802 or SMS300 yet were remarkable.  Still others were designed not to be mass market, or to be licensed but to satisfy a company’s internal needs for a processor to power their equipment.   These in house designs were every bit as impressive as the competition but since they were used by their creators alone, they faded into obscurity.  One such example was the Bell Labs BELLMAC-8, designed by, and for Western Electric. They were not alone however…

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March 11th, 2014 ~ by admin

IBM z800 MCM Mainframe Processor

IBM z800 MCM

IBM z800 MCM

Mainframes are the workhorses of the computing industry.  They process transactions for about every industry, and handle the brunt of the economy.  Their MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) is measured in decades (typically 20-50 years).  A comparison to a home computer is hard to make, they are in an entirely different league, playing an entirely different game.

Data Intense vs. CPU Intense

Mainframe processors such as these work in what is referred to as ‘Data Intensive’ computing environments.  This is different from multi-cored processing that focuses on ‘CPU Intensive’ computing.  CPU intense has a relatively small data set, but most perform a lot of work on that set of data, or do the same instruction on a set of data (such as graphics).  CPU Intense processing can often be sped up with the addition of more processing cores.  Data Intense processing does not see as much benefit from adding cores.  Its biggest bottleneck is accessing the data, thus the System z tends to have VERY large caches, and very high bandwidth memory.  They typically operate on transactional type data, where the processing has to operate in a certain order (A has to be done before B which has to finish before C etc).

IBM was one of the first, and continues to be one of the largest suppliers of such systems.  Starting with the System/360 introduced in 1964 to the zSeries today.  The zSeries was first launched in 2000 with the z900, a significant upgrade from the System/390.  Data addressing was moved to 64-bits (from 31 bits) yet backwards compatibility (all the way back to the 360) is maintained.  The z900 ran at 775MHz and was built with a 35 die MCM containing 20 Processing Units (PUs) and 32MB of L2 Cache.

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March 6th, 2014 ~ by admin

The Agilent ARM701 Processor

ARM 701 mis-print on the left

ARM 701 mis-print on the left

We recently received several Remote Server management cards, powered by the Agilent (spun off of HP in 1999) N2530 SoC.  This SoC provides the processing for remotely administering, and managing servers.  At its hearts is an ARM processor running at 33MHz.  Proudly marked on the chip, is ‘ARM 701 POWERED.’  There is one problem, there never was an ARM701 processor core.  The N2530 is in fact powered by an ARM710.  A typo was made when marked the Rev D chips, and later fixed on the Revision E.  I have not yet received an example of a Rev C (or earlier) to see if they too have this error, but E and later certainly did not.  The Agilent N2530 was used for many years in the early 2000′s on cards by Dell, Fujitsu, and IBM (and likely others).  Essentially forming a computer within a computer, these cards often had their own graphics support (ATI Mobility Radeon, among others) as well as support for CD-ROMs, hard drives, LAN (for access) and everything else you would find in a stand alone computer.  Typically they could remote start, reboot, and power down servers, all over a network connection.

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