Intel Aside

I was really excited when the 8080 came out, especially when all the support chips, home micro kits, and so forth arrived. I quickly, however, came to loathe Intel. With the 8080's success came sudden loss of guts - they had a bad partial case of what I later came to think of as MicroSoft Syndrome. Symptoms include:
  1. Loss of vision
  2. Loss of speed
  3. Loss of chutzpah
The 8086 was, IMO, a joke. And I'm fimrly convinced that it would never have taken hold as it has if not for the fortuitous (for Intel) appearance of IBM on the Personal Computer scene. In fact, the only real advantage the 8086 (and the PC) had over the Z80 (and, say, a Cromemco) was that it could handle more than 64K of RAM without external bank switching.

The 80186 was actually a fairly decent controller chip. I was not impressed with the 8085 - I found the 6800 series much easier to use.

The 80286 was a joke. When the 80386 finally arrived on the scene, it was very discouraging. Intel was close - but they had either backed off, or just plain goofed up. Why these toy chips? Perhaps they had swallowed the marketing hype from Sun, Dec, et al that PCs were toys? The National Semiconductor 32x23 chips blew Intel chips away! Intel, however, had the steam and marketing savvy. Which was depressing at the time, though slightly less so now.

I don't know what happened at Intel, but someone woke up, or was replaced, or rose to the occasion or something. Because in the 486 and 586 chips, Intel was finally producing real computer chips instead of hobbyist chips or demented, overblown microcontrollers. The fact that they have maintained backwards compatibility makes these chips even more impressive (despite my having no use for the things they are backwards compatible with - I realize a lot of people do).

Yes, I really wish the NS 32532 had carried the day. It was the one of the easiest chips to program I ever saw. It did things right. But the new Intel chips at least do everything they should, and do them well, even if not the way I think they should. 8^)

So, I no longer despise Intel. I have done what was once unthinkable and voluntarily purchased (and use!) an Intel-based system (a Dell with PCI and SCSI). With Linux and X on it, it screams. It does most of what a Sun would do, and a lot cheaper. No, I didn't wimp out, give in or surrender - Intel got with the program.

Loss of vision

They lost sight of what they had been - a forward-thinking company intent on producing leading-edge technology, and began to focus strictly on money. I realize money is important - but it's not the only thing.

Loss of speed

They went from producing progressive new designs at an aggressive pace to a much more sedate pace. A pin here, a transistor there, and you don't mind waiting til the end of time, do you?

Loss of chutzpah

They suddenly seemed afraid of (or perhaps mearely loathe to) change. Some of their best people involved in the 8080 design were forced to start Zilog to produce the Z80 - clearly a much better chip than the 8080. Innovation? No way - protect what you have and forget the rest.

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Last updated: 28 October 2007

Copyright 1996 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.

Miles O'Neal <> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514