When Intel and Hewlett-Packard say their new IA-64 microprocessor architecture goes "beyond RISC," it's not just marketing hype. IA-64 is based on widespread research and development that goes back over 20 years, and it represents the general forward trend in CPU design. However, previous attempts to commercialize those technologies have either failed or have achieved limited success. To put IA-64 into historical and technical perspective, BYTE interviewed CPU architects and engineers at competing companies as well as at Intel and HP. BYTE also found academic researchers and computer scientists who have spent years working independently on the basic technologies behind IA-64.
[June 1998] NOTE: This article was never posted on the BYTE web site after the magazine folded in 1998.
Will Java always be noticeably slower than C++? It's a matter of debate, but many experts say no. Here's an in-depth technical look at nine ways to boost Java's performance: Faster Java virtual machines (JVMs), better source-code compilers, bytecode optimizers, just-in-time (JIT) compilers, dynamic/adaptive compilers, static native compilers, native method calls, Java processors, and more efficient source code.
[Cover story: May 1998]
- Java Chips: The Hardware Solution: The Java virtual machine isn't virtual anymore -- it's real. New Java processors coming from nine companies can execute Java bytecode as their native machine language, making it unnecessary to interpret or compile the bytecode into some other CPU's machine language.
- Calling Native Code: Some say it's cheating. Others say it breaks the promise of write once, run anywhere. Could it even be a Communist conspiracy? Nope, it's a native method call -- a controversial technique for squeezing more performance out of Java.
- Benchmarking Java: To demonstrate the dramatic difference a just-in-time (JIT) compiler makes, the BYTE Lab ran the Java version of our BYTEmark programs (jBYTEmark) on a Windows PC with the two most popular Web browsers. We also compiled the programs with two different versions of the same Java development tool. Here's what we found. (BYTE Lab testing by Al Gallant.)
- Speed Tips for Java Coders: Java developers don't have to wait for fancy new compilers and other whizbang technologies to make their programs run faster. It's possible to achieve major gains in performance simply by writing better code. (Surprise!) Here are seven ways to streamline your programs.
- A Java Glossary: Definitions of a few technical terms found in this article.
If mainframes, high-end servers, and embedded control systems can chug along for years without crashing, freezing, faulting, or otherwise refusing to function, then why can't PCs? Surprisingly, the answer has only partly to do with technology. The biggest reason why PCs are the most crash-prone computers ever built is that reliability has never been a high priority -- either for the industry or for users.
[Cover story: April 1998]
- Why Mainframes Rarely Crash: Mainframes can achieve "four nines" or "five nines" availability: 99.99 or 99.999 percent uptime. That translates into only 5 to 53 minutes of downtime per year. Yet millions of PC users would be overjoyed if their computers could go a whole day without crashing. Why are mainframes so reliable?
- It's a Hardware Problem!: If you don't know the difference between a sleeve bearing and a roller bearing, or an electrolytic capacitor and a tantalum capacitor, what you don't know can hurt you.
- Embedded Reliability: Bet Your Life: Your life literally depends on millions of invisible computers that control everything from commercial airliners and antilock braking systems to traffic lights and medical equipment. Here's why they rarely fail.
- Crash-Proof Tools: Here are a few tools that can help reduce the frequency of crashes and make it easier to maintain your system. (By John Montgomery)
- Better Tools for Better Code: Does it matter which language a programmer used to write your software? Absolutely! Here's why modern languages such as Java make bugs less likely to happen than antiquated languages such as C and C++.
- Crash Tips: Nine ways to avoid crashes, keep your system healthy, and retain a grip on your sanity.
IBM's Powerhouse Chip
Imagine a 64-bit CPU with 15 million transistors, eight functional units, a 128-bit-wide system I/O bus, a 256-bit-wide secondary cache bus, nearly 8 GBps of aggregate bus bandwidth, 128-way caches, and built-in support for symmetric multiprocessing. You won't have to imagine it for long -- IBM produced the first silicon samples of the Power3 in early 1997, and systems will be in production in the second half of 1998.
[April 1998] NOTE: This article was never posted on the BYTE web site after the magazine folded in 1998.
Deschutes: Pentium II Breakout
Intel's new processors, chip sets, and motherboards will establish the Pentium II as the standard in 1998 for low- to high-end PCs and servers. All new Pentium II processors will be based on Intel's 0.25-micron Deschutes core. And for the first time, sixth-generation x86 technology will come to notebook computers.
[March 1998] NOTE: This article was never posted on the BYTE web site after the magazine folded in 1998.
- Deschutes Pentium II Road Map for 1998: This chart shows all of the new Deschutes-series Pentium II processors that Intel plans to ship in 1998, along with each chip's core speed, frontside bus speed, backside bus speed, Level 2 cache size, CPU interface, fabrication process, power consumption, Intel core-logic system chip set, and approximate introduction date.
- Faster Pentium IIs Come Down the Chute: BYTEmark results comparing the integer and floating-point performance of the 333-MHz Pentium II, 300-MHz Pentium II, 200-MHz Pentium Pro, and 200-MHz Pentium.
The old vision that disparate computer and media technologies would converge on a single platform is fading fast. Features are converging, but existing platforms are splintering into new platforms and subplatforms. The personal computer market is extending its reach from TV Internet terminals and $300 Windows PCs to 64-bit workstations and enterprise servers. One-size-fits-all PCs can't cut it anymore. As prices plunge and technology churns, rapid obsolesence is forcing users to rethink how they buy computers -- and how much they should spend.
[Cover story: February 1998]
- System on a Chip:
The key to inexpensive Windows PCs is higher integration, and Cyrix is leading the way. Its MediaGX processor delivers Pentium-class performance while integrating many common system functions.
- The Slot Thickens:
AMD and Digital are hatching a bold plan to oppose Intel's proprietary CPU slots with a new slot that's physically compatible -- but not electrically compatible. Slot A, as it's known, will also allow Digital's powerful Alpha processors to fit into the same mass-produced motherboards as AMD's future K7 processor. To make this work, AMD is adapting the Alpha's bus interface to the K7. But can they successfully oppose the world's largest chipmaker and motherboard manufacturer -- Intel?
- How Low Can You Go?:
Yes, you can now buy a decent Windows PC (without monitor) for as low as $499. By the summer of 1998, say manufacturers, prices will plunge to an incredible $299. And we're talking about real Windows PCs, not network computers.
- BYTE Readers Put PCs Out to Pasture Faster: A random survey of BYTE readers shows that rapid obsolesence is forcing them to replace their computers more often. BYTE readers also are split on the importance of open CPU sockets for PC motherboards.
- How BYTE Readers Rank New Technologies: Based on data gathered during a random telephone survey, here's how BYTE readers rank the importance of 14 new PC technologies -- from 100-MHz system buses and Fast Ethernet to USB and AGP.
Despite inroads by the Intel x86 and Windows NT, the latest Rx000-series microprocessor reaffirms Silicon Graphics' commitment to RISC. The R12000 isn't a radical redesign of the Rx000 architecture, as was the R10000, but it's an evolutionary design that improves upon the R10000 in several ways.
The future direction of the x86-compatible PC platform will probably be decided in 1998. Or should we say future directions? At issue is whether the PC platform will remain a cohesive standard or split into semicompatible fragments that could force users and vendors to choose sides.
Step aside x86, hello IA-64 and EPIC: the radical new technology inside Intel's 1999 Merced chip. Here, for the first time in any magazine, is a detailed look at the breakthrough microprocessor architecture from Intel and Hewlett-Packard that's destined to change the industry. IA-64 is much more than just a 64-bit stretch of the ancient x86. It's a completely new CPU architecture that uses long instruction words, branch predication, speculative data loading, huge register files, and static parallelism to boost performance to new heights. Only in BYTE!\
[Cover story: December 1997]
AMD, Cyrix, and Centaur are adding new extensions for 3-D graphics to the x86 architecture -- without Intel's blessing. The new floating-point instructions go far beyond MMX and will accelerate the performance of 3-D games and graphics programs. But together with Intel's own push for proprietary CPU slots, the extensions make the taken-for-granted Wintel standard seem a little less solid. Will the platform fracture into pieces, or can Microsoft's Direct3D save the day?
[Cover story: December 1997]
- AMD's K6 Roadmap: Advanced Micro Devices is working on two new versions of the K6 processor for 1998.
- Centaur's WinChip Roadmap: Centaur Technology will add a 256-KB integrated Level 2 cache to the WinChip in 1998, along with other new features.
The Pentium II's proprietary slots are making it more difficult for rival chipmakers to compete with Intel, and they're dividing the industry into camps that are fighting over the future of the PC system architecture. Caught in the crossfire are users. Will the PC standard we've always thought was open soon become proprietary?
- Seven Ways to Boost Socket 7: Here are seven ways to postpone Socket 7's technical obsolesence by increasing its performance and versatility.
- Sorting Out the Slots:
Are you confused about Intel's proprietary CPU interfaces? Here's a quick rundown of Socket 8, Slot 1, Slot 2, and the P6-compatible mobile slot for notebook computers.
Foiled by Intel's rigid patents on Slot 1, rival vendors of x86 chips are working on a new CPU interface to succeed the widely used Socket 7. The higher-bandwidth interface would be an open alternative to Intel's proprietary sockets and slots, but it could split the PC system architecture into incompatible standards.
Critics say Java isn't ready for prime time. But others are using it to solve real-world business problems. What's their secret? Here are eight examples of real business applications written in Java -- and all of them are running today or are in the early stages of deployment.
- Excelling at Java:
One developer used a tool called SmartTable from Visual Numerics to automatically convert a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet into a working Java applet. The applet, LeaseWizard Jr., helps people decide whether it's better to lease or buy a car.
Centaur Technology's new x86-compatible processor rebels against current design trends with a vastly simplified microarchitecture. Can a scalar CPU with no branch prediction, no speculative execution, no instruction reordering, no rename registers, and no superpipelining really deliver Pentium-class performance?
After a period of five years of relative stasis, Wintel PCs are about to get their first major improvements since the appearance of the PCI bus and 66-MHz motherboards in 1992-93. These changes will relieve internal bottlenecks, radically improve graphics performance, and significantly affect buying decisions for anyone purchasing new systems over the next 18 months.
Two new x86 microprocessors challenge Intel with MMX compatibility and strong performance at lower prices. The Cyrix 6x86MX and Centaur Technology IDT-C6 will soon find their way into low- to mid-range desktops and notebooks.
The Network User Interface: 13 next-generation interfaces that will make Net access easier.
If your computer has a screen and is on a network, you need to read this article. Why? More than a dozen network-centric user interfaces are coming to PCs and network computers this year, from the likes of Apple, IBM, Lotus, Microsoft, Netscape, Oracle, Sun, and others. It's the biggest revolution in GUIs since 1984.
[Cover story: July 1997]
The prevailing view is that world chess champion Garry Kasparov was beaten by a sophisticated chess program called Deep Blue running on a 1.4-ton IBM supercomputer. Another view is that Kasparov was beaten by a team of engineers, programmers, and grand masters who used a supercomputer to dodge the tournament game clock.
The newest x86 processors run at higher clock speeds (finally).
Stuck at 200 MHz since November 1995, x86 processors are finally ready to break that barrier. The AMD K6, Intel Pentium II (code-named Klamath), and Cyrix 6x86MX (code-named M2) will all be running at 200 MHz or faster by the end of the year.
Network Computers: Cost Control or Mind Control?
NCs vs. PCs: Ignore the propaganda. Versatile PCs and low-cost thin clients both have a place in almost any organization.
[Cover story: April 1997]
- Windows Everywhere, Thanks to Citrix Citrix WinFrame allows a network of client devices -- of many hardware and OS types -- to run programs on an NT server.
- Thin Clients: Behind the Numbers At the center of the controversy over thin clients are some widely quoted -- and frightening -- studies on total cost of PC ownership: what it costs to manage, maintain, and replace PCs over the long haul.
- Ten Myths About Thin Clients Are they dumb terminals? Are they stripped-down PCs? Are they only for home users? Do they really cost $500? Here are the real answers.
- The Wintel Empire Strikes Back Intel and Microsoft are spearheading several counterattacks against thin clients. Some of these attacks seem contradictory and make it appear that the two industry leaders are positioning themselves for every possible outcome -- including the success of thin clients.
"Where do you want to go today?" asks Microsoft.
"Not where you're taking us," says Netscape.
Microsoft and Netscape both want to change how users interact with their computers in a wired world. But each company wants to steer those changes in a different direction. Whoever prevails will probably determine the face of computing for the next decade.
You've heard the hype. You've groaned at the bad coffee puns. Now it's time for the crucial question: Is Java for real? Straight answer: Java isn't just for building cute Web pages anymore. Java is establishing itself as a serious programming language capable of tackling the most sophisticated business applications. Never in the history of computing has a new language attracted so much support from toolmakers, software developers, and OS vendors in such a short time.
[Cover story: January 1997]
- The Bitter Taste of Java In the Java world, your code might be bug-free but still not work properly. That's because Sun and JavaSoft haven't ironed out all the wrinkles in Java.
- Java Beans: Cross-Platform Components Yes, JavaBeans are another grating coffee pun. They're also prewritten software components that make it easier to build Java programs.
- Plugs for Java's Security Holes The Java security model is not perfect. Devious developers can create Web-embedded Java programs, known as hostile applets, that can make life miserable for Web users. [Coauthored by Gary McGraw and Edward Felten]
- Who's Using Java A few companies that are using Java for major business projects.
Exponential Technology's 533-MHz bipolar microprocessor will breathe new life into the PowerPC architecture and the Macintosh.
Stung by Intel's gains in processor performance, the PowerPC alliance will strike back with higher clock speeds and new chip designs.
Imagine that you could buy a desktop computer with a 15,000-MHz processor, 1600 MB of RAM, and a 100-GB hard drive for less than $20. On-line bandwidth is on the verge of making just such a leap. The mythical system described above is about 100 times faster than today's PCs at one-hundredth the cost, and that's approximately the price/performance advantage that a new generation of broadband modems will deliver over existing phone lines and cable TV networks. The ultimate impact of that much power at such a breakthrough price is almost impossible to predict, because it's the kind of breathtaking leap that spawns new applications that weren't thinkable before.
[Cover story: September 1996]
Except for relatively minor refinements, GUIs haven't changed much since Apple introduced the Macintosh in 1984. But now they're about to break loose. It's no longer enough for a user interface to offer a graphical view of the local file system of a stand-alone computer. The coming trend in GUIs is to unify a rapidly expanding information space that includes LANs, WANs, the Internet, and the World Wide Web.
- How Computers Press YOUR Buttons If your computer sometimes makes your blood boil, you're perfectly normal. In fact, a Stanford University researcher claims that computers stimulate a wide range of emotional responses that mirror real-life human interactions.
- Six Tips for Better Interfaces After studying the physiological and psychological responses of computer users, Stanford University's Clifford Nass says savvy user-interface designers should keep six key issues in mind.
- The Good, the Bad, and the Politically Incorrect Some examples of what to do and what not to do when designing user interfaces.
MMX is the most significant revision of the x86 architecture since Intel introduced the 32-bit 386 chip in 1985. Programmers get eight new registers and 57 new instructions that are optimized for multimedia tasks. Users will get better performance with video, graphics, animation, and sound.
With Pentium competition increasing, Intel is now preparing to make its Pentium Pro the desktop PC processor by late 1997.
It's official: Windows NT is off probation. Nearly four years after Microsoft's all-new, industrial-strength operating system hit the market amid the usual hype and hoopla, growing numbers of managers are satisfied that it's ready for prime time. Although NT hasn't overthrown Unix, savvy system managers are definitely taking it more seriously.
[Cover story: May 1996]
- Technical Head-to-Head Comparisons -- These tables compare Unix and Windows NT in the technical areas of integration, security, manageability, scalability, and reliability. (Researched and compiled by Tom Yager.)
- Unix vs. Windows NT: The Vendors' View -- Unix (represented by Steve MacKay, vice president of the Solaris products group at SunSoft) faces off against Windows NT (represented by Mike Nash, group product manager for Windows NT Server) in this edited debate sponsored by BYTE.
- A Vote for Unix: Performance, Reliability, Security -- Gene Diveglia is a Sun worshipper. As vice president of information services for Intelligence Network On-line (Clearwater, FL), he's convinced that Sun hardware and Solaris 2.5 are the best possible solutions for his fast-growing company.
- A Vote for NT: Good Performance, Mainstream Integration -- Larry Blevins believes Windows NT is good for your health. Or at least that it's good for the 261,000 people enrolled in the Harris Methodist Health System (Fort Worth, TX), the "fastest-growing health-maintenance organization in north Texas." Blevins and Harris Methodist have bet heavily on NT Advanced Server, and so far it's a bet that is paying off.
- Market Forces -- Without a doubt, at least some of NT's growth is coming at the expense of Unix. We interviewed some technically savvy users who have switched from Unix to NT, or who said they might switch if they were reengineering their installations today. Market research firms such as Dataquest predict that NT will dominate the industry by the turn of the century. Yet it's worth keeping in mind that industry analysts and journalists made similar predictions when Microsoft introduced NT in 1992, and NT's adoption rate has fallen well short of expectations.
- Market Share Comparisons and Predictions -- Industry sources predicted in 1992 (top figure) that NT would capture 37 percent of the market for operating systems by 1996, with all Unix versions combined capturing only 7 percent. Yet by 1995 (middle figure), NT had obtained only 1 percent of the OS market, even less than Unix's 2 percent share. That doesn't stop predictions that by 1999 (bottom figure) Windows NT will have 41 percent of the market, while Unix is projected to have 2 percent.
Mips has optimized its latest CPU for the single-precision floating-point math operations common in 3-D graphics.
In a bid to create the world's fastest microprocessor, a Silicon Valley start-up company is developing a PowerPC chip that combines fast-switching bipolar transistors with conventional CMOS technology. If the hybrid CPU lives up to expectations, it could exceed 500 MHz and deliver three times the performance of today's fastest Pentiums.
The new R5000 microprocessor from Mips Technologies (Mountain View, CA) is specially optimized for the single-precision floating-point operations that characterize today's 2-D and 3-D graphics. The result is a powerful, affordable CPU that executes 400 million floating-point operations per second (MFLOPS) and is driving down the cost of high-end graphics performance.
By the end of the year, the fastest Pentium will run at a blazing 200 MHz and CPU prices will drop so fast that businesses will regard PCs with 120- and 133-MHz Pentiums as entry-level boxes.
Three new microprocessors from Sun Microelectronics are the first CPUs dedicated to running Java software. They're designed to run Java programs much faster than a software-based Java engine on a general-purpose microprocessor, such as an x86, PowerPC, or Sparc.
Talk about strange bedfellows. Former blood enemies Intel and Advanced Micro Devices have signed a landmark cross-licensing agreement that will allow them to introduce CPUs with new multimedia x86 instructions by the end of this year. Frozen out, however, is Cyrix and its manufacturing partner, IBM Microelectronics.
Are network computers just another false alarm, like the first personal digital assistants (PDAs)? That's the down-to-earth question you can't help asking when high-profile CEOs such as Oracle's Larry Ellison, Sun Microsystems' Scott McNealy, and IBM's Lou Gerstner describe their utopian vision of a $500 Internet appliance that could replace today's PCs.
[Cover story: March 1996]
- Inside the Pippin
Apple Computer set out to design an interactive media appliance for homes and schools, but it may have created the first network computer instead.
Coming soon to a screen near you: You. Or at least a facsimile of you. It's called an avatar: a graphical image of a user -- representing yourself or someone else -- on a computer screen. Think of an avatar as your alter ego in the virtual world of cyberspace.
Speed freaks rejoice: Faster versions of the Pentium Pro have appeared sooner than expected. Intel originally planned to introduce the new microprocessor at 133 MHz, but the low end turned out to be 150 MHz, and Intel is now producing chips that run at 200 MHz.
AMD's new K6 (formerly the NexGen Nx686) is the first x86 chip with special multimedia instructions.
How nice it would be if thorough reference works such as The Indispensable Pentium Book were published immediately after a chip came out.
(with Salvatore Salamone) Microsoft's Network OLE and the OMG's CORBA are competing to distribute components on your network.
Look for new x86 microprocessors that integrate digital signal processor (DSP) functionality to arrive next year. These chips, some of which may ship as early as the first half of 1996, will perform some high-speed operations typically done by DSPs.
AMD's surprise acquisition of NexGen should give a significant boost to both companies. NexGen will become a subsidiary of AMD and will continue designing new x86 microprocessors. NexGen's latest CPU, the Nx686, has been renamed the AMD-K6 and will be marketed as a sixth-generation competitor to Intel's Pentium Pro.
(with Dick Pountain) CPU choices used to be clean when the great rivals, CISC and RISC, were in two distinct camps. But with the CPU introductions set to begin late this year, each camp steals the other's best ideas, and blurs replace distinctions.
[Cover story: November 1995]
- CPU Scorecard: Intel P6 -- The first PCs containing Intel's sixth-generation P6 processor should appear late this year. Intel originally planned to introduce the P6 at 133 MHz, but thanks to better-than-expected performance from the initial silicon, Intel now hopes to debut the chip at 150 MHz. Some speed-sorted parts may reach 166 MHz.
- CPU Scorecard: Cyrix 6x86 -- Cyrix's first M1 chip, the 6x86-100, is crippled by a monstrously large die that's difficult and expensive to manufacture. The M1rx (a code name) addresses that problem by using five layers of metal instead of three on the same 0.6-micron process, which reduces the die from 394 square millimeters to approximately 225mm2. This also allows Cyrix to boost the internal clock speed to 120 MHz.
- CPU Scorecard: AMD K5 -- AMD's reputation is riding heavily on the K5, the company's first x86 processor to break free of Intel's designs. The birth of the K5, however, has not been without labor pains.
- CPU Scorecard: NexGen Nx686 -- Little is known about the Nx686, because the chip hasn't been announced yet and NexGen doesn't want to tip its hand to rivals AMD, Cyrix, and Intel. However, NexGen has stated that the Nx686 will match the performance of Intel's P6 and build on the microarchitecture introduced by the Nx586 in 1994.
- Chip Fashion -- (with John Montgomery) In 1996, skirts will be longer, suits will be double-breasted, and chips will go multimedia. The latter is the big news at this year's Microprocessor Forum.
- Alternate Views of the 615 -- What if almost everything that has been written about the PowerPC 615 is backward? What if IBM's goal is not to bring x86 compatibility to PowerPC systems, but rather to bring PowerPC compatibility to x86 systems?
Don't be fooled by fast CPUs: The PC of 1995 is little more than a souped-up IBM AT from 1984, which was a minor improvement over the IBM PC of 1981, which was based on technology from the 1970s that wasn't so hot to begin with. Fortunately, that's all about to change.
[Cover story: October 1995]
- On the Cover: New PC Designs Now that the PC architecture is being overhauled, how different will your next PC look? Our cover shows three possibilities.
- ATX Motherboards Intel's new ATX motherboard is the first major reengineering of the PC motherboard in a decade.
- Intel and Microsoft: The Agents of Change Finding faults in the PC is not the problem; fixing them is. The basic architecture of PCs remained stagnant for a decade because IBM lost control of the standard in the 1980s and nobody else was strong enough to claim the position of top dog.
- Archistrat 4s One of the most unconventional system architectures seen in recent years is coming in a new line of servers and desktop systems from Panda Project, a start-up based in Boca Raton, Florida.
The 486 is reaching the end of its life, but it isn't dead yet. Advanced Micro Devices has developed two chips that shatter 486 speed barriers and offer Pentium-level performance at low-end prices. Meanwhile, Cyrix has developed an unusual CPU that's a cross between a 486 and a 586-class chip.
Visual development tools from Borland and Microsoft will soon let you create 32-bit programs that take advantage of the new features and user interface elements in Windows 95.
When running legacy applications, a fast Pentium may outperform the first P6 processors.
- 20 Most Important Chips: 20 chips that had a significant influence on the evolution of personal computing.
- 20 Spectacular Failures: Sometimes you get it; sometimes you don't. Why should computer companies be any different? There doesn't seem to be a single one that has the complete Midas touch.
Coherent. Consistent. Relentless. These are the words that describe Microsoft's OS strategy. Any questions?
[Cover story: August 1995]
- Tigers and Icebergs: Microsoft On-Line Today desktops, tomorrow the world. That sums up Microsoft's global OS strategy. Microsoft is preparing for a future where computing devices of all types are ubiquitous, networked, and part of our daily routine.
- A Peek at OFS
A look at Microsoft's OLE structured storage and OFS (Object File System), an extension to NTFS (NT File System).
Intel's Pentium OverDrive processor is a compromise design. It puts a rocket in your socket, all right, but the upgrade socket has a 32-bit, 486-style I/O bus -- not the faster, wider, 64-bit bus of a regular Pentium. The resulting bottleneck keeps the Pentium OverDrive from delivering as much performance as you might expect.
Prices will drop and performance will increase as Intel faces some strong competition in the x86 microprocessor arena.
New fabrication plants and process technologies that shrink processor dies allow the development of chips that run faster and at lower voltages without overheating. Smaller dies also let fabricators squeeze more chips onto a silicon wafer, thereby increasing yields and slashing costs.
Panoramic video, using Apple's QuickTime VR and Microsoft's Surround Video, enables photo-quality virtual reality on your computer screen.
Intel's successor to the Pentium is an impressive microprocessor, a bold new generation of CISC. But is it enough to keep AMD, Cyrix, and NexGen at bay?
[Cover story: April 1995]
- How Much Faster is the P6? Intel says the P6 is about twice as fast as the Pentium. But Intel is comparing the estimated performance of a 133-MHz P6 to that of a 100-MHz Pentium. Is that fair?
- The P7 and Beyond
Intel's P6 is the logical next step beyond the Pentium, but the P7 could introduce a radically different technology that achieves a breakthrough in performance while preserving backward compatibility.
An error in a lookup table created the infamous bug in Intel's Pentium processor.
- How to Bruise an Integer
"Bruised integers" are numbers that should be integers and may appear as integers when displayed on the screen, but internally are represented as floating-point values that fall just shy of a whole number.
Ranked by Business Week as one of the top 10 business schools in America, the John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA is on the verge of a rare opportunity to completely reengineer its computer infrastructure.
Borland's Delphi program addresses client/server and general-purpose applications development needs.
In the 1970s, VisiCalc was the killer application that made the Apple II a hit. In the 1980s, desktop publishing did the same for the Macintosh. In the 1990s, Apple is hoping once again that breakthrough technology will help it leapfrog the competition.
[Cover story: December 1994]
- The Newton and the Hare Apple keeps plugging away with the Newton MessagePad, keeping a low profile while building for a hopefully brighter future.
- Houdini Reappears Apple was pleased by the test marketing of its first DOS-compatible board, nicknamed Houdini.
- PowerPC Alliance Near? Apple, IBM, and Motorola may be nearing an agreement on a common PowerPC system platform that would redefine the PReP standard.
- Apple's Future System Software Two operating systems code-named Copland and Gershwin are the planned successors to System 7.
When you're number four, you try harder -- or at least try something different. That's the idea behind NexGen's strategy for competing with AMD and Cyrix in the high-stakes challenge to Intel's domination of fifth-generation x86 processors.
WinG is a new library of graphics routines from Microsoft that lets developers significantly boost the performance of graphics-intensive Windows applications. Distributed free with new Windows software and built into Chicago and NT 3.5, WinG accelerates screen updates and delivers almost as much speed as custom graphics routines in MS-DOS programs do.
Mips Technologies' T5 chip takes an aggressive approach to superscalar dispatch that shows how far today's engineers must go to deliver cutting-edge performance.
The quad-issue K5 series is AMD's long-awaited answer to Intel's Pentiums. Its RISC-like core and innovative approach to x86 decoding may propel it past the Pentiums of today, but Intel isn't standing still.
Apple is embarking on a two- to three-year project that will redefine the Macintosh's proprietary hardware/software architecture to accommodate industry standards and eventually merge with IBM's PReP (PowerPC Reference Platform). Apple's goals are to slash the manufacturing costs of Macintosh hardware, encourage licensed vendors to produce Macintosh clones, allow Macs to boot rival operating systems, and expand the market for Mac-compatible hardware and software.
With ICM in Chicago (the prerelease code name for Windows 95), the color of an imported image will more closely match what you see on a monitor or printout.
An industry-wide effort, Plug and Play will make PC compatibles easier to configure and maintain while reducing support costs for vendors and users. Although businesses and individuals both stand to gain substantial benefits, the transition to full adoption of Plug and Play won't be painless, won't come cheap, and will likely take years.
[Cover story: September 1994]
- Plug and Play With DMI In some ways, Plug and Play overlaps another industry initiative that promises to make PCs easier to maintain: DMI (Desktop Management Interface).
- Tips for Plug and Play Be sure the next PC or motherboard you buy has a BIOS that supports Plug and Play.
- What They're Saying About Plug and Play Observations of industry executives and analysts.
- Building a Better BIOS Key to the success of Plug and Play is the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System), which is primarily responsible for booting up a PC compatible and handling low-level device I/O.
Archived information is useless if it can't be retrieved, and the easiest kind of information to retrieve is textual: documents that either originated in machine-readable form or were converted to ASCII text by OCR scanning. A much more difficult challenge is to retrieve image files or compound documents in which the target of the search is a graphic, a video clip, or a sound bite.
A parting look at an innovative computer industry pioneer, whose achievements have been largely forgotten.
By integrating a Mips R4x00compatible CPU with an advanced memory architecture that obviates the need for a conventional SRAM (static RAM) cache, a Silicon Valley start-up has created a unique upgrade board that turns VL-Bus PCs into high-performance RISC systems for Windows NT.
It's hard to accept the argument that the Intel 80x86 architecture or its underlying CISC technology is staggering on the brink of extinction. On the contrary, the next few years will see the broadest proliferation of the architecture since the 8086's debut in 1978.
[Cover story: June 1994]
- A Billion-Dollar Ball Game There are three ways to make a faster microprocessor: increase the clock speed; design a better microarchitecture; or increase the transistor density.
- System Vendors Like Variety
System vendors and motherboard manufacturers will generally welcome the arrival of Pentium-class processors from AMD, Cyrix, and NexGen, even if some of them don't anticipate using any chips other than Intel's.
- An 80x86-Compatible PowerPC?
The most exotic application of CISC-to-RISC instruction translation might be IBM's rumored PowerPC 615.
Developers and analysts are raving over a new DSP (digital signal processor) that shatters speed records and brings an unprecedented level of performance to the desktop. The highly integrated chip from Texas Instruments will begin appearing early next year in products ranging from high-end video-capture boards and image processors to videoconferencing systems.
Apple recently divulged new details of its system software strategy for the next few years. This summer, System 7.5 will introduce such features as multithreading; drag-and-drop editing; QuickDraw GX (an improved graphics engine for both screen rendering and printing); MacTCP (the first in a series of Open Transport network protocols to be integrated into the Mac OS as AppleTalk is); a scriptable Finder, which allows macros and applications to automate file management tasks on the Mac Desktop; automatic file synchronization between mobile and desktop systems; built-in DOS file compatibility; and context-sensitive help. Conspicuously missing from System 7.5 are preemptive multitasking (System 7 is limited to cooperative multitasking) and memory protection (which keeps programs from interfering with each other in a multitasking environment). In contrast, both of those features and multithreading are expected to appear in Chicago, the next release of Windows 3.x. According to Apple's road map, Mac users must wait until the release of an operating system code-named Gershwin in 1996 to get true preemptive multitasking (OS/2 2.1 already provides preemptive multitasking, multithreading, and memory protection). [May 1994]
Licensing System 7 to third parties isn't the only part of Apple's spread-the-Mac strategy. On March 14, Apple also announced the Macintosh Application Environment, or MAE, a new Mac-on-Unix emulator that runs a System 7 session in an X Window System window on Sun SparcStations and Hewlett-Packard Series 700 workstations.
The recent combination of superfast microprocessors and new approaches to emulation software design is yielding significant gains in speed and compatibility. Here's a detailed look at how these new software-based emulators work.
(with Michael Nadeau) The PowerPC is poised to challenge Intel processors on the desktop. But what about portable systems? Here, it seems, Intel is at an even greater disadvantage. Its current fastest 486 and Pentium processors are slower and more power-hungry than the PowerPC 603.
Think of it as the world's largest WAN (wide-area network) with the world's largest database servers at one end and the world's largest number of clients at the other: That's the vision for broadband ITV (interactive TV).
It will likely take years, but General Magic and its partners want to create a ubiquitous communications infrastructure.
(with Andy Reinhardt) Telescript, General Magic's communications-oriented programming language, lets developers write tools that permit casual users who know nothing about programming to create intelligent applications that seek out and retrieve important information.
The following articles aren't available online. You can find them in back issues of the magazine or on the BYTE CD-ROM. (In extreme cases, contact Tom for assistance.)
How Safe is Data Compression?
MS-DOS 6.0 with DoubleSpace raised real-time data compression to a new level of visibility. As controversy raged over its reliability, some concerned users retreated from the technology. But the real issue isn't data compression at all; it's how compression is integrated into the operating environment. New approaches promise to make this technology much more foolproof.
[Cover story: February 1994]
- PC Disk-Compression Software Comparison: This table compares the features of popular disk-compression software.
- Safety Tips for Disk Compression: Here are nine suggestions that will help ensure the safety of your valuable data.
ClarisWorks for Windows
(Software review) At least four kinds of people are likely customers for integrated software packages: new computer owners who need some software to get started, casual users who don't require the power of major applications, laptop owners who are conserving memory and hard disk space, and anyone who often needs to move data between different programs but is frustrated by the inevitable problems of getting separate applications talking to each other. The best-known integrated package is Microsoft Works, available for DOS, Windows, and the Mac. ClarisWorks, introduced for the Mac in 1991, now lays claim to the number-one spot in the Mac market. The new Windows version of ClarisWorks is virtually identical to the Mac version.
[Special Issue: 1993]
Apple Revamps Its Lineup -- Again
(with Tom Thompson) Apple is introducing a harvest of new Macintoshes. Systems with 68030 processors include the Performa 410, Performa 460, Performa 466, Performa 467, and Performa 550. Systems with 68040 and 68LC040 processors include the LC 475, Performa 475, Performa 476, Quadra 605, Quadra 610, and Quadra 650. Our benchmark results show how they compare in performance.
New RISC Chips for Windows NT
Windows NT is sparking some hot competition among chip makers who want a piece of the growing market for high-performance desktop PCs and servers. Three new RISC microprocessors from Digital (DEC), Integrated Device Technology (IDT), and Toshiba America are challenging the early leads claimed by Intel's Pentium and the Mips R4400. All three new chips are sampling now and are scheduled for volume production early next year. DEC's entry is the Alpha 21066, the lowest-cost member of the Alpha AXP family. IDT and Toshiba are introducing separate versions of the new Orion R4600, developed in a joint venture with Quantum Effects Designs. The Orion is a Mips R4400-compatible CPU that is claimed to be faster than Mips's own R4400PC.
CDPD Network Emulator for Developers
Wireless communications may get a boost from a new Windows-based development tool that emulates a complete CDPD (cellular digital packet data) network. The software emulator, called CDPD Workbench, lets developers test their applications while simulating various levels of network traffic, radio interference, vehicle speeds, and other variables that are difficult to create under actual conditions. Workbench was introduced by Cellular Data (Palo Alto, CA).
Sony's MiniDisc for Data: Future Floppy?
Sony's recent decision to adapt its 2.5-inch audio MiniDisc for computer data storage poses a new alternative to conventional floppy disks, which are falling far behind the curve of today's mass-storage requirements. MD DATA, as Sony's new MO (magneto-optical) format is called, offers a promising combination of storage density, economical mass duplication, and cross-platform compatibility. MD DATA disks come in three variations: writable, read-only, and a hybrid that's partly writable, partly read-only. They all store 140 MB of data per disk.
Intel's VDI Speeds Up Video, Miffs Microsoft
Intel and Microsoft are at odds over a new way to dramatically accelerate Video for Windows (VfW). At issue is Intel's new Video Device Interface (VDI), a software extension to video drivers that roughly doubles the speed of software-only playback in VfW. But Microsoft is upset because VDI bypasses the Windows GDI (Graphical Device Interface) and writes directly to the video controller's frame buffer.
PDAs Arrive -- But Aren't Quite Here Yet
Technically impressive, Apple's Newton MessagePad and the Tandy/Casio Zoomer are the first true personal digital assistants (PDAs). Their potential is tantalizing, but the reality leaves something to be desired. Prices are high, handwriting recognition is marginal, and communications are incomplete. Yet with technology advances, PDAs may yet fulfill their original vision.
[Cover story: October 1993]
- Ink vs. ASCII: One alternative to difficult handwriting recognition is to minimize freehand pen input by offering selections in menus. Another is to capture an image of the user's handwriting without attempting the difficult translation into ASCII text. The latter approach is known as digital ink.
- Ease of Use Is Relative: Hands-on evaluations of the Apple Newton MessagePad, Tandy/Casio Zoomer, and the Eo 440 Personal Communicator. (with
Tom Thompson and Michael Nadeau)
AMD Declares Independence
Late this summer, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) will start shipping a new series of 80x86-compatible processors that it says are not based on Intel microcode. Among the first three new processors is a 40-MHz 486SX (Intel's fastest 486SX runs at only 33 MHz) and a pair of 33-MHz 486SX chips. One is a 5-V part for desktop systems, and the other is a 3.3-V part with SMM (System Management Mode) for mobile computers. First shipments were slated for August and September.
Video Compression Standards Vie for Acceptance
(Sidebar to cover story "Video Conquers The Desktop" by Andy Reinhardt) Imagine if you couldn't send a fax outside your company because the recipient's fax machine recognized a different transmission standard than yours. Or suppose the public telephone system lacked sufficient bandwidth to handle a fax transmission at all. Welcome to videoconferencing, 1993. But there is hope: The CCITT, which established the Group 3 standard that lets fax machines communicate worldwide, is trying to bring the same order to videoconferencing. It is promoting a specification known as H.261 (pronounced "H-dot-261") or Px64 ("P times 64").
Intel Overhauls the 486
Intel's new 486SL Enhanced microprocessors extend SL-style power management across the entire 486 line and will eventually replace 486DX, 486SX, 486DX2, and 486 OverDrive chips. They also make it easier for system designers to follow the U.S. government's Energy Star guidelines. By the end of the year, power management will be a common feature in desktop computers as well as portables.
Apple's Educational Mac
Apple's latest desktop Macintosh, the LC 520, will initially be sold only to schools -- but it sports some interesting features that are likely to appear in future Macs. Among other things, the LC 520 is the first Mac to come standard with a CD-ROM drive, internal stereo speakers, modular plug-and-play components, and a built-in 14-inch color monitor.
PowerOpen Gives Users Freedom of Choice
(Sidebar to cover story "PowerPC Performs for Less" by Tom Thompson) Early next year, you should be able to buy a PowerPC-based computer that will run Mac software about as fast as a Quadra 700, Windows software as fast as a 486, and native Unix software as fast as a Sun SparcStation 10. The high-speed RISC chips, system software, and breakthroughs in emulation technology that make this possible are coalescing under an umbrella known as the PowerOpen Environment. The ambitious goal of PowerOpen is to support a scalable PowerPC-based platform that lets users choose from several different libraries of applications software running atop the most popular user interfaces.
Low-Power RISC from Mips
Promising "Pentium performance in a notebook," Mips Technologies has announced the first power-saving chip in its R4000 microprocessor family, an important step toward moving RISC chips from workstations to mainstream PCs. The R4200 is intended primarily for laptops that can run Windows NT.
Ruling Won't Mean Lower Prices for 486 Chips
Don't expect the prices of 486 microprocessors to plunge just because Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) won the latest round in federal court and is finally competing against Intel for the lucrative 486 market. Although the surprise ruling cleared the way for AMD to begin selling 486 chips, even AMD admits it won't be able to make enough chips this year to dent Intel's market share or spark a price war.
New Memory Architectures to Boost Performance
(Sidebar to cover story "Pentium Changes The PC" by Andy Reinhardt) One of the system bottlenecks exposed by high-speed processors like the Pentium is the interface to main memory. This interface is the most crucial pathway in the entire computer, because it's responsible for carrying a constant flow of program instructions and data between memory chips and the CPU. Here's a look at several new memory technologies: Enhanced DRAM (EDRAM), Cache DRAM (CDRAM), Synchronous DRAM (SDRAM), Rambus DRAM (RDRAM), and RamLink.
ClarisWorks for Macintosh
(Software review) Since its debut in 1991, ClarisWorks has become the dominant integrated software package for the Macintosh, toppling the longtime leader Microsoft Works and overtaking two other contenders (WordPerfect Works, formerly known as BeagleWorks, and Symantec's GreatWorks). With the recent release of version 2.0, Claris's leadership position is now even stronger.
A Peek at PowerOpen
When the first computers based on the new PowerPC chips debut early next year, they'll be able to run character-based Unix and graphical Motif applications concurrently with existing Macintosh programs. Multiple Mac sessions can run side by side in their own Motif windows, and the system clipboard will let users cut and paste between the Mac and Unix environments. MS-DOS and Windows 3.x programs will run atop an optional software emulator from Insignia Solutions.
Visual Basic 3.0 Strengthens Connectivity
More than 70 percent of all copies of Visual Basic are sold to corporations for developing in-house applications, and more than 90 percent of those custom programs interact with structured databases, according to Microsoft. So it's no surprise that the latest version of VB adds new tools for database connectivity. Both Standard ($199) and Professional ($495) editions of VB 3.0 now have the same database engine found in Access 1.1, Microsoft's RDBMS (relational database management system) for Windows. Thus, VB 3.0 can interact with databases stored in several common formats: Access, dBase, FoxPro, Paradox, and Btrieve.
Mips Challenges Intel on Its Own Turf
(Sidebar to cover story "Windows Everywhere?" by Jon Udell) Mips Technologies, a relatively small chip-design house owned by Silicon Graphics (SGI), hopes Windows NT will enable its highly regarded RISC processors to challenge Intel's decade-long grip on the mass market for PCs. Raw speed isn't a problem for Mips processors. It's going to be hard to convince PC clone makers that a RISC PC is viable. Designing new systems around high-speed RISC chips is a daunting task. Many PC vendors weakened by last year's price wars can no longer afford major R&D efforts.
Mac Compatibles: Better Never than Late?
After four years of intense engineering effort, NuTek USA is delivering samples of its Mac-compatible chip set, motherboard, and operating system to computer vendors. NuTek also announced the Duet, a multiprocessor system that natively runs Mac and MS-DOS software simultaneously. NuTek claims its machines will run "almost all" of the most important Mac software. But currently, the machines won't run Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Excel or Works. And the Mac landscape has changed dramatically since NuTek first embarked on its ambitious project in 1989.
Intel Launches Rocket in a Socket
On March 22, Intel unveiled the Pentium -- the next generation of the microprocessor architecture that has dominated the PC industry for more than a decade. With this new processor, Intel has begun steering a difficult course between tradition and revolution. On one hand, Intel must prolong the life of the 15-year-old 80x86 architecture, a tried-and-true design that encompasses an installed base of tens of millions of computers and thousands of programs. At the same time, however, Intel must also push the envelope of microprocessor performance to new levels that will satisfy the increasing demands of computing in the 1990s.
[Cover story: May 1993]
- Pentium Design Hurdles: Greater heat dissipation, faster bus speeds, tighter manufacturing tolerances, and increased RF interference make it more difficult for PC vendors to design systems around the Pentium.
- Life Cycle of the x86: Intel sticks to a remarkably regular product cycle -- each new x86 generation follows the previous one by about 44 months. And the number of transistors has increased exponentially since the debut of the 8086 in 1978.
High Cost of Chip R&D Sparks New Friendships
The high cost of R&D in creating the next wave of CPUs and memory chips has prompted a new round of collaborations among high-technology firms. Last summer, IBM, Toshiba, and Siemens Nixdorf announced they had agreed to co-develop 256-Mb chips. Currently, Texas Instruments and Hitachi say that they, too, will share research efforts in developing 256-Mb memory chips. And in another alliance, AMD has hooked up with Hewlett-Packard to share development costs and expertise in developing the technology for a new generation of 0.35-micron chips that could range from RAM chips to RISC processors.
A Spring Harvest of Apple Macintoshes
On February 10, Apple unleashed its second wave in the market-share war. As before, the company introduced six Macs that compose a sweeping revision of its product line. Among the changes is the first compact Mac with a color screen, the first PowerBook with a color screen, and a new Quadra with a shorter mini-tower design. A newly introduced Centris series -- a set of 68040-based midrange computers -- is intended to replace the Mac II line. Also shown was the Mac LC III, a high-powered successor to the LC II.
Battle of the Workstation Stars
(with Dan Muse and Dave Andrews) It was a Super Tuesday in November for Unix workstations as three arch rivals -- Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard's workstation systems group, and Digital (DEC) -- unveiled several systems built around new high-power CPUs. Sun staked a claim in the low-end workstation turf by unveiling workstations based on the low-priced RISC microSparc microprocessor. HP's workstation systems group took jabs at DEC, IBM, Silicon Graphics (SGI), and Sun with systems based on the single-chip Precision 7100 processor. In addition, DEC introduced the first of its Alpha AXP workstations based on 64-bit RISC technology.
AMD vs. Intel: Back to the Breadboard
After losing a key court decision on its use of Intel microcode in future chip designs, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has been forced to delay the introduction of its first 486-compatible microprocessor until June. AMD is developing a version of the Am486 that does not use Intel microcode.
Apple Stakes Out Color Imaging Market
(with Tom Thompson) At the January MacWorld Expo in San Francisco, Apple was expected to announce its first serious entries into the color imaging market: the QuickDraw-based Apple Color Printer and the Apple Color OneScanner.
Atari's Falcon030 Leads the Pack
While IBM, Apple, and others are expected to introduce computers with DSPs (digital signal processors) later this year, the first company to ship a low-cost PC with a DSP is none other than Atari -- the video-game company that once hit $2 billion a year in sales and then nearly collapsed in the mid-1980s. Although Atari is smaller these days, it's still selling a line of computers. Atari's latest computer, the Falcon030, is a surprisingly versatile machine that points the way toward a new generation of multimedia computers.
Buying a CD-ROM Drive
(Sidebar to cover story "Start the Presses" by Jon Udell) The proliferation of CD standards, including CD-ROM XA and multisession Photo CD, makes it harder than ever to decide which drive to buy. Further complicating the decision is the availability of dual-speed drives that, for a $200 premium, double throughput. One alternative is simply to wait a few months: Drive makers are constantly updating their products, and they say that adding XA or Photo CD support won't be a big deal. But the definitions of these features can be slippery.
Motorola Skips a Generation with the 68060
Like Intel's Pentium, Motorola's next-generation microprocessor will use superscalar architecture, parallel pipelines, branch prediction, and a common instruction pipe that the integer and FPUs share. It will also maintain full software compatibility with earlier members of its chip family. But by the time Motorola's 68060 begins to ship in production quantities, Intel's Pentium will likely have been in production for over a year: Motorola expects to begin manufacturing the 68060 in the first half of 1994.
PowerPC 601: Ahead of Schedule
IBM and Motorola are ahead of schedule with the development of their PowerPC 601, the first in a series of RISC microprocessors on which IBM and Apple will base their next generation of personal computers. The first-pass silicon was ready last October, less than a year after a joint team began work in Austin, Texas. If development continues apace, IBM and Apple expect to introduce their first PowerPC systems by late 1993.
Borland Revamps Its Pascal Lineup
Turbo Pascal was the breakthrough product that established Borland International in 1983. Ever since, it has remained entrenched as the most popular midrange programming language on PCs -- more powerful than BASIC, and surpassed only by C and C++ for professional development. With the recent release of Turbo Pascal 7.0 and Borland Pascal with Objects 7.0, Borland hopes to retain its position as programmers migrate from DOS to Windows.
Coming Soon: Sparc Workstations at PC Prices
SPARC-compatible workstations priced similarly to high-end PCs are expected on the market by early 1993, thanks to a new low-cost microprocessor announced in October by Texas Instruments. The new RISC-based microSparc (code-named Tsunami) delivers about 40 MIPS and costs only $179 in production quantities. Other comparable SPARC chips cost more than $500, and Intel's 486DX/50, a CISC microprocessor also rated at about 40 MIPS, costs $502.
Windows Encroaches on Mac Color Publishing
(with Patrick Waurzyniak) Microsoft Windows is rapidly invading Apple's turf of color desktop publishing, judging from new hardware and software shown at the Seybold Desktop Publishing Conference in September. Several companies are porting major Mac products to Windows 3.1. For example, Quark announced that it had begun shipping to distributors its long-awaited Windows version of QuarkXPress, a desktop publishing program now popular on the Mac.
Intel Introduces Speedier 486SX and OverDrive Chips
Intel has upped the ante again, introducing in September its fastest 486SX microprocessor and a new speed-doubling OverDrive chip. The new CPUs will accelerate the trend away from 386-based systems and put more pressure on Intel's competitors, who have yet to market a full-fledged 486-compatible processor. The new 486SX is clocked at 33 MHz and is rated at 27 MIPS. That's about twice as fast as a 33-MHz 386DX.
New Interrupt Architecture Supports Multiprocessing
In October, Intel introduced a new interrupt architecture designed to improve multitasking performance and pave the way for multiprocessing operating systems, such as the unreleased Windows NT. The architecture has been adopted by major hardware and software companies and is expected to begin appearing in computers late this year or early in 1993. At the very heart of the architecture is a new interrupt controller chip, the Intel 82489DX. It supersedes the 8259A, which made its debut in 1978 and is found in almost all PC compatibles.
Other Players Find Niches
(with Andy Redfern, Dave Andrews, and Andy Reinhardt; sidebar to cover story "Make the Right CPU Move" by Andy Redfern) A host of CPU manufacturers have revealed plans to produce Intel-compatible processors for more specialized applications. These companies include NEC Technologies, Chips & Technologies, International Meta Systems, Vadem, and NexGen.
Coming Soon: Visual Basic 2.0
Visual Basic 2.0, announced in early November, promises to be a significant revision that adds more of everything: controls, properties, keywords, events, debugging tools, programming aids, and -- perhaps most important -- performance. Here's a look at some of the significant new additions, based on preliminary documentation, a beta version of the software, and Microsoft sources.
Sun Expands Alliance With Russian Computer Scientists
Sun Microsystems has hired 33 top Russian computer scientists, including supercomputer designer Boris Babaian, to write compilers and other development tools for Sun Sparcstations. Working under exclusive contracts at three locations in their home country, the Russians will apply their knowledge of multiprocessing architectures to a new generation of Pascal and FORTRAN compilers and optimization tools.
Borland vs. Symantec: High-Level Intrigue
Is it a tempest in a teapot or a full-blown industrial espionage? And just how private is E-mail? That's what people are wondering about one of the strangest scandals to erupt in Silicon Valley in years. On September 1, Eugene Wang surprised his colleagues at Borland International by resigning to join Symantec. As vice president and general manager of the Languages Business Unit, Wang was one of Borland's top executives. But the real surprise came after Wang resigned. Borland accessed Wang's corporate MCI Mail account and read all the messages he had sent over the previous five days. According to Borland, at least 10 of those messages were addressed to Symantec CEO Gordon Eubanks and contained secret information about Borland's marketing plans, recruiting prospects, business strategy, and specific strategy regarding Symantec.
New RISC Chip to Emulate 486 and 68040
International Meta Systems (IMS) claims it has a new RISC microprocessor that can emulate an Intel 486 or Motorola 68040 at their full native speeds and at a fraction of their cost. IMS is pitching the CPU for pen computers that need high performance for tasks such as handwriting recognition. It also says the chip could be used in a "chameleon computer" that runs PC and Mac software.
Intel Reveals Tantalizing P5 Details
When Intel's P5 [Pentium] microprocessor is released early next year, the new chip will maintain full compatibility with the 486 and eventually deliver 4 to 10 times the performance, claim Intel engineers. Thanks to its superscalar architecture, parallel-integer pipelines, intelligent branch predictions, and improved floating-point math, the first version of the P5 will crunch more than 100 MIPS at its clock speed of 66 MHz. That's about twice as fast as a 66-MHz 486DX2. These and other details of the P5 were revealed at Stanford University's Hot Chips Symposium this summer.
Judge Affirms Look-and-Feel Decision
Apple lost again in its $5.5 billion lawsuit against Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard over the Mac interface when U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker reaffirmed his April 14 ruling that most aspects of Microsoft Windows and HP's NewWave do not illegally copy Apple's GUI.
Bell Rings for Software Copyright Law
(with Dave Andrews) A federal judge has ruled that Borland International's Quattro Pro spreadsheet program infringes on Lotus Development's copyrights of the 1-2-3 spreadsheet program and that a trial by jury is now needed to determine the extent of the copying. Borland, which was expected to appeal the decision, announced shortly after the decision that it is shipping a new version of its Quattro Pro spreadsheet that lacks the optional 1-2-3 interface.
Apple's Performas: Macs for the Home
(with Tom Thompson) In 1985, Apple chairman and CEO John Sculley declared that Apple sold "computers for use in the home, not home computers." That ambiguous position has now changed -- sort of. Apple is selling its new Macintosh Performa line of home computers through mass-market channels nationwide. The Mac Performa line comprises three machines: the low-end Performa 200, the midrange Performa 400, and the high-end Performa 600. Two of these systems aren't really new: The Performa 200 and 400 are actually the Mac Classic II and LC II, respectively. The top-end Performa 600 is the only genuinely new model in the lineup.