Monday, March 30, 2009

Read-only memory (ROM)

Read-only memory (usually known by its acronym, ROM) is a class of storage media used in computers and other electronic devices. Because data stored in ROM cannot be modified (at least not very quickly or easily), it is mainly used to distribute firmware (software that is very closely tied to specific hardware, and unlikely to require frequent updates).

In its strictest sense, ROM refers only to mask ROM (the oldest type of solid state ROM), which is fabricated with the desired data permanently stored in it, and thus can never be modified. However, more modern types such as EPROM and flash EEPROM can be erased and re-programmed multiple times; they are still described as "read-only memory"(ROM) because the reprogramming process is generally infrequent, comparatively slow, and often does not permit random access writes to individual memory locations. Despite the simplicity of mask ROM, economies of scale and field-programmability often make reprogrammable technologies more flexible and inexpensive, so mask ROM is rarely used in new products as of 2007.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Intel 8088

The Intel 8088 is an Intel x86 microprocessor based on the 8086, with 16-bit registers and an 8-bit external data bus. It can address up to 1 MB of memory. The 8088 was introduced on July 1, 1979, and was used in the original IBM PC.

The 8088 was targeted at economical systems by allowing the use of 8-bit designs. Large bus width circuit boards were still fairly expensive when it was released. The prefetch queue of the 8088 was shortened to four bytes (as opposed to the 8086's six bytes) and the prefetch algorithm slightly modified to adapt to the narrower bus.

Variants of the 8088 with more than 5 MHz maximum clock frequency include the 8088-2, which was fabricated using Intel's new enhanced nMOS process called HMOS, and specified for a maximum frequency of 8 MHz. Later followed the 80C88, a fully static CMOS design, which could operate from DC to 8 MHz. There were also several other, more or less similar, variants from other manufacturers. For instance, the NEC V20 was a pin compatible and slightly faster (at the same clock frequency) variant of the 8088, designed and manufactured by NEC.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Intel 8008

The Intel 8008 was an early byte-oriented microprocessor designed and manufactured by Intel and introduced in April 1972. Originally known as the 1201, the chip was commissioned by Computer Terminal Corporation (CTC) to implement an instruction set designed for their Datapoint 2200 programmable terminal. As the chip was delayed and did not meet CTC's performance goals, the 2200 ended up using CTC's own TTL based CPU instead. An agreement permitted Intel to market the chip to other customers after Seiko expressed an interest in using it for a calculator.

The chip (limited by its 18 pin DIP packaging) had a single 8-bit bus and required a significant amount of external support logic. For example, the 14-bit address, which could access "16 K x 8 bits of memory", needed to be latched by some of this logic into an external Memory Address Register (MAR). The 8008 could access 8 input ports and 24 output ports.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Intel 80386

The Intel 80386, otherwise known as the i386 or just 386, is a microprocessor which has been used as the central processing unit (CPU) of many personal computers and workstations since 1986.

As the original implementation of the 32-bit form of the 8086-architecture, the i386 instruction set, programming model, and binary encodings is still the common denominator for all 32-bit x86 processors. As such, it has remained virtually unchanged for over 20 years, enabling modern processors to run most programs written for earlier chips, all the way back to the original 16-bit 8086 of 1978.

Successively newer implementations of this same architecture have become several hundred times faster than the original i386 chip during these years (or thousands of times faster than the 8086). A 33 MHz i386 was reportedly measured to operate at about 11.4 MIPS.

The i386 was launched in October 1985, but full-function chips were first delivered in 1986[vague]. Main boards for 386-based computer systems were at first expensive to produce but were rationalized upon the 386's mainstream adoption. The first personal computer to make use of the 386 was designed and manufactured by Compaq.

In May 2006 Intel announced that production of the 386 would cease at the end of September 2007. Although it had long been obsolete as a personal computer CPU, Intel, and others, had continued to manufacture the chip for embedded systems, including aerospace technology.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Intel 80286

The Intel 286, introduced on February 1, 1982, (originally named 80286, and also called iAPX 286 in the programmer's manual) was an x86 16-bit microprocessor with 134,000 transistors.

It was widely used in IBM PC compatible computers during the mid 1980s to early 1990s.

After the 6 and 8 MHz initial releases, it was subsequently scaled up to 12.5 MHz. (AMD and Harris later pushed the architecture to speeds as high as 20 MHz and 25 MHz, respectively.) On average, the 80286 had a speed of about 0.21 instructions per clock. The 6 MHz model operated at 0.9 MIPS, the 10 MHz model at 1.5 MIPS, and the 12 MHz model at 1.8 MIPS.

The 80286's performance was more than twice that of its predecessors (the Intel 8086 and Intel 8088) per clock cycle. In fact, the performance increase per clock cycle of the 80286 over its immediate predecessor may be the largest among the generations of x86 processors. Calculation of the more complex addressing modes (such as base index) had less clock penalty because it was performed by a special circuit in the 286; the 8086, its predecessor, had to perform effective address calculation in the general ALU, taking many cycles. Also, complex mathematical operations (such as MUL/DIV) took fewer clock cycles compared to the 8086.