August 10th, 2014 ~ by admin

An Interesting Fujitsu MCM Pentium Module

Fujitsu MRN-3545 (100) 100MHz Pentium with no L2 Cache

Fujitsu MRN-3545 (100)
100MHz Pentium with no L2 Cache

We have seen Fujitsu MCM Pentiums before.  120MHz, 133MHz 150MHz and MMX ones.  One is pictured in the article on the MicroModule Systems Gemini here.  The 100MHz module is similar, though it is missing the L2 cache tag RAM (256 kbit chip on the top of the package) as well as the 2 cache RAM chips normally installed on the backside of the module.  It would appear that Fujitsu offered these modules with the cache being optional.  There was a 133MHz version (MRN-3548) with cache, and one (MRN-3549) without cache.

These processors were typically used in environmentally challenging environments.  Panasonic famously used them in their ToughBook CF25, the beginning of a line of highly durable laptop in 1996.  Some of these applications were sealed environments, they did not have vents, or active cooling.  This obviously  makes cooling a challenge.  Removing the L2 cache, while causing a significant hit in performance, would alleviate some of the heat generation.

We consider L2 cache to be essential, but many applications do not require it.  Intel infamously removed the L2 Cache completely from the first Celeron processors and while they worked, they were not particularly competitive performance wise.  When competing against wind, rain dirt, and droppage? L2 cache may not be so important

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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.

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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 28th, 2014 ~ by admin

Intel Joins Forces with Rockchip – ARM Meets x86

rockchip logoIt’s well known that Intel missed the jump on tablet and phone processors.  Intel sold off their PXA line of ARM processors to Marvell in 2006, in an attempt to ‘get back to the basics.’  It turned out that this sale perhaps was a bit premature, as the basics ended up being mobile, and mobile is where Intel struggled (by mobile we mean phones/tablets, not laptops, which Intel has no problems with).

In January of 2011 Intel purchased the communications division of Infineon, gaining a line of application and baseband processors, based on ARM architecture of course.  Intel developed this into the SoFIA applications processor, which was ironically fab’d by TSMC.   Eventually the designs would be ported to Intel 14nm process, or that was the plan.

Intel Atom - Now by Rockchip?

Intel Atom – Now by Rockchip?

So this weeks announcement that Intel has signed an agreement with the Chinese company Rockchip, to cooperate on mobile applications processors is a bit of a surprise, but the details show that it makes sense.  Rockchips current offerings are ARM based, much as Intel’s current SoFIA processor, as well as Apple Ax series, Qualcomm’s SnapDragon, TI’s OMAP, etc. However, the agreement with Rockchip is not about ARM, its about x86.  For the first time in many years Intel has granted another company an x86 license, specifically, Intel will help ROckchip build a quad-core Atom based x86 processor with integrated 3G modem.  Rockchip currently uses TSMC as their fab, however also with this agreement Rockchip gets access to Intel 22nm and 14nm fab capacity.

Who wins?

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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 22nd, 2014 ~ by admin

Soviet K573RF23 and the Mark of Quality

Soviet Vostok K573RF23 - 2kx4 - 1984

Soviet Vostok K573RF23 – 2kx4 – 1984

This EPROM, made in November of 1984 at the Soviet Vostok factory in Novosibirsk started life as a 2716 2kx8 EPROM.  A Soviet 2716 would be marked as 573RF2, whereas this particular example is marked 573RF23.  The die is a 2716 that was found to be defective, and thus converted to a  2kx4 EPROM, this is denoted by the adding of the 3 to the part number.  This certainly was not an uncommon procedure, even Intel regularly sold 2708 EPROMs as 2704s, whether to use a die with an imperfection, or to simply meet demand.

There are two other interesting markings on this particular EPROM.  First is the CCCP logo, this is the State Quality Mark of the USSR.  This quality mark was used to signify that products met the following conditions:

  • “meets or exceeds the quality of the best international analogs”,
  • parameters of quality are stable,
  • goods fully satisfy Soviet state standards,
  • goods are compatible with international standards,
  • production of goods is economically effective and
  • they satisfy the demands of the state economy and the population.

Meeting these conditions allowed the factory to sell such devices at a 10% premium.  So not only was Vostok able to pass a defective part as a quality part, they were able to do so and make a bit extra revenue.  Thats something Intel would be quite envious of.

Some references show that 573RF23 as being the equivalent of a 2758 EPROM (5V 2708).  This is in fact incorrect.  A 2716 converted to a 2708 is done so simply by removing a single address line (going from 11 to 10)  The 573RF23 retains 11 address lines, but it removes 4 data lines, thus making it 2kx4, same number of address locations, but each locations contains only 4 bits, vs 8 bits.  Rewiring address lines likely did not allow for a working EPROM due to where the defect was, thus cutting the word size down.  The first condition of the State Quality Mark is that said EPROM should meet or exceed the best international analog.  Intel did not make a 2kx4 EPROM, the closest western analog would be the Harris/Intersil IM6657, though it was made in CMOS, vs the 573RF23s NMOS, so one could say that it was easy to beat a analog that did not exist.

The other mark on this EPROM is OTK, which literally means “Technical Control Department,” in others words this part passed the quality control dept, hopefully after it was converted to the lower capacity device, and them marked with the State Quality Mark.  Perhaps it was the best NMOS 2kx4 EPROM the world was to see, certainly it came in a beautiful package.

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.