Former Intel chief architect provides an insider's look into the design of the Pentium chips

12/08/05

One of the most recognizable brand names in the world, Intel Corporation has become synonymous with the computer age. From its introduction of the first microprocessor more than 30 years ago to its meteoritic rise in the 1990s, the world's largest chip maker has been both publicly applauded for its technological innovation and charged with allegations of unfair competition practices, intellectual theft, and faulty products. However, even the staunchest critic could not contest the far-reaching impact of the Pentium chip. In his new book "The Pentium Chronicles: the People, Passion, and Politics Behind Intel's Landmark Chips" (Wiley-IEEE Computer Society Press; December 2005; $24.95; Paper; 0-471-73617-1), Robert P. Colwell, the chief architect responsible for the Pentium CPU architecture, provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of the design and production of the most successful microprocessor in history, Intel's Pentium 6.

Unveiling the saga of a project that exploded from a few architects to hundreds of engineers, Colwell humorously recounts the rationale, key decisions, personal triumphs, and setbacks that characterized the P6 project. From its architectural planning in a storage room jimmied open with a credit card to a marketing presentation using shopping carts, the author relates events from the project's early beginnings through its production and launch.

Not just a discussion of project structure and management, concept development, and cooperation and interference with other company projects, "The Pentium Chronicles" also examines the Intel culture, often recounting funny stories of corporate policies gone wrong. Colwell addresses the public controversies over Intel's Pentium III internal ID tag, the Pentium's floating point divider bug, and claims of intellectual property theft from Digital Equipment Corporation and Cornell University.

The creation of a ground-breaking product like the P6 chip requires the confluence of many factors -- brilliant minds, exceptional dedication, and managers that inspire and nurture the vision while ensuring that the project stays on track. Robert P. Colwell's narrative "The Pentium Chronicles: the People, Passion, and Politics Behind Intel's Landmark Chips" offers a first-hand perspective into what it took to create and develop a product that forever changed the way we live and work.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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There was never a genius without a tincture of madness.
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