December 6th, 2015 ~ by admin

T-5 Delivers DRAM’s – Intel Open House ’83

Memorabilia_Intel_OpenHouse-T-5

Intel DRAM – Likely a 2186 64K device given out during the 1983 Open House

In 1983 memory products were still Intel’s largest source of revenue.  Intel’s first product, the 3101, was a RAM, and until the memory trade wars of the early 80’s continues to be Intel’s bread and butter.  Fab 5, opened in Aloha, Oregon in October of 1978 and its primary product was memories.  EPROM’s, EEPROM’s, SRAM, and DRAM were all fab’d here, then shipped overseas, and back to Oregon for testing.  The primary testing facility for the Memory Products division was the T-5 site in Hillsboro, just a few miles from Fab 5.  T-5 tested both commercial, and military memory products up until 1985, when Intel exited the DRAM market in its entirety.

Intel Open House Chip form 1981 - Likely a 214x SRAM

Intel Open House Chip from 1981 – Likely a 214x SRAM

These OPEN HOUSE sample chips were handed out to employees and visitors at the test site during its annual open house in 1983 (apparently in many of the open houses at that time).  Most likely this chip is a 2186A integrated RAM, a 64K DRAM made on a 1.2 micron HMOS-III process.  The 2186 was a new design for 1985 and provided a DRAM with the same pinout as a 2764 EPROM.

Just like T-5, Intel DRAMs are no more, though the Fab 5 they were made in, which was closed in 1998, was reopened to increase Flash production, the only memory product Intel still makes.  Intel’s exit of the DRAM business was certainly a risky decision back then, but it turned out to be one of the best they made.  They blamed the exit on the rapidly falling prices do to ‘dumping’ of DRAM’s and EPROMs (sold below cost) from Japanese semiconductor companies, but this allowed them to exit the DRAM business before DRAM’s turned into the commodity they are today, with margins being almost non-existent.  This allowed Intel to focus time, resources (fab capacity was in very short supply then) and money on other products, namely microprocessors and microcontrollers, they very products that have taken Intel from a one of many semiconductor company to world leader.  Perhaps they can thank those same Japanese companies they were so upset about back in 1985 for where they are today.

March 22nd, 2013 ~ by admin

CPU of the Day: IBM Micro/370 – True Mainframe on a chip

IBM System/370 - 1970

IBM System/370 – 1970

IBM introduced the 12.5MHz cabinet sized System/370 in June 1970 as an evolution of the System/360 from 1964.  These systems formed the entire base of IBM’s mainframe business.  Today’s System z, itself an evolution of the original System/360 and 370, can still run many of the original programs, unmodified, from 50 years ago.  This is a testament to 2 things, the wide adoption of the IBM systems, and the forward thinking of IBM.  Even the original System/360 from 1964 was a full 32-bit computer.  Single chip processors did not embrace 32 bit architectures until the very early 1980’s (Motorola 68k, National 32k, etc).

In 1980 IBM sought to make a single chip version of the 370, in an effort to make a version that could be used for desktop type computers.  This was to become the Micro/370.  There were 2 distinct products to come out of this goal that are widely confused and debated.  The first became the PC XT/370, an add in card(s) for an IBM PC to give it the capability to run System/370 software.  Later another version was developed called the Micro/370 as a single chip solution.

The PC XT/370 began as an experiment,  a test bed implementation of the System/370 in a microprocessor environment.  The goal was not to rebuild the 370 from the ground up (that would come later) but to merely implement its instruction set into an existing design.  The base processor had two main requirements:  it had to be 32 bits, and it had to be microcoded.  IBM’s engineers in Endicott, NY selected the then very new Motorola MC68000 processor as their basis.  It was one of the only 32-bit designs at them time so that no doubt helped in the selection process.

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March 7th, 2013 ~ by admin

PENTIUM License Plate: One in a million, or 2

Original PENTIUM California License (number) plate

Original PENTIUM California License (number) plate

This California license plate came through the museum on its way to a collector in Sweden.  I get many items in that are unusual and rare but this was the first processor relates plate I have seen.  The best part? It came with some history.

It was ordered as a vanity plate by a salesman at Intel around 1995.  He was later hired by AMD as a sales person but his car still said “Pentium” which obviously was a bit of a problem.  As a token of commitment to his new company he gave it to his manager at AMD, despite the fact that he was offered $3000 for it from an employee at Intel.  It likely sat on a desk for some time until it was sold on eBay (for the low price of $100) where it was spotted by a collector in Sweden who asked me to purchase it for him.

It now resides with the collection of CPU Collection.SE