Intel’s Pentium Processor Turns 20 Years Old Today
Following Intel’s previous series of 8086, 80186, 80286, 80386, and 80486 microprocessors, the company’s first P5-based microprocessor was released as the original Intel Pentium, 20 years ago today, on March 22, 1993.
Marketing firm Lexicon Branding was hired to coin a name for the new processor. The suffix -ium was chosen as it could connote a fundamental ingredient of a computer, like a chemical element, while the prefix pent- could refer to the fifth generation of x86.
If you’re old enough to recall, the chip ran circles around its 486DX2 predecessor, and thanks to a heavy dose of marketing from Intel, the brand quickly became synonymous with the PC. For you trivia types, the original Pentium P5 was available in 60MHz and 66MHz variants, and was manufactured with an 800-nanometer fabrication process, which is quite the contrast to the 22nm chips on the market today.
Despite Intel’s poor initial handling of the Pentium FDIV bug, the processor went on to become arguably the firm’s most successful piece of silicon. Intel’s Pentium chip hasn’t been its highest volume part, as the computer industry was considerably smaller during its original three and a half year run, but such is its association with the firm that the company still uses the branding to this day, 20 years on.
These chips also ran extremely hot, meaning they required a large heatsink and noisy cooling fan to keep under control. The misstep ultimately allowed AMD to take the performance crown with their highly successful Athlon line for several years.
Intel eventually found their way again with the Core architecture that debuted near the end of 2007. Interestingly enough, this platform was based on the same P6 architecture used in the first Pentium Pro back in 1995.
So there you have it: Happy birthday, Pentium!