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Intel Pentium & Pentium MMX


The Intel Pentium processor was introduced in 1993 marking a watershed in PC processors in a number of ways. The Pentium offered PC users new levels of performance over the existing 486 dynasty which reigned supreme. After an initial shakey start with the much publicised floating point bug, the Intel Pentium quickly rose to become the processor of choice for many PC users establishing one of the strongest brand identities within the computer world, that of the "Intel Pentium Processor".

The Intel Pentium revealed

The Pentium processor was the first 5th generation processor to be released for the PC. Having come under pressure from the IBM/Motorola Power PC processors in the Apple Macintosh, the Pentium was tasked with reclaiming the speed crown for Intel and the "x86" (IA-32) family. Initially released in speeds of 60 and 66 MHz the Pentium featured an advanced superscalar design (more than one execution unit) coupled to an advanced floating point math unit. It offered levels of performance in excess of the Intel i486 DX-4 100, though at a hefty price premium. The Pentium also saw bus speeds rise from 33 MHz to 60/66 MHz which boosted performance significantly.

No assessment of the original Pentium would be complete without a mention of the imfamous floating point bug. As mentioned in the previous paragraph the Pentium processor possessed an impressive floating point math capability. Unfortunatly for Intel some of the early 60 and 66 MHz chips contained an erratum which meant that over a number of long division calculations it could get the figure wrong! This would lead to the chip having to approximate its output. This problem was rapidly fixed by Intel (mainly to avoid the sheer embarassment of it) and later versions of the chip do not contain this erratum (to our knowledge), but it left a tag that the Pentium was never able to fully distance itself from.

The original Pentium was released in Socket 4 format which did not last very long and could only be used by the 60 & 66 MHz models. This was followed at the beginning of 1995 by the release of Socket 5 which was followed by the release of the Pentium in speeds of 75, 90, 100, 120 & 133 MHz by the end of 1995. The relentless rise of the Pentium's clock speed had begun and provided users with sufficient power to cope with the newly released power hungry Windows 95.

As with all high end PC processors their reign at the top is short lived. By 1996 we saw the advent of new and more powerful Socket 7 motherboard connector which allowed clock speeds to rise once again. Early 1995 saw the release of the Pentium 150 MHz being closely followed by the 166 MHz variant in April of that year. The Pentium processor reached its zenith in August 1996 with the release of the 200 MHz variant. Within a matter of years the power of PC processors had risen dramatically and the main power behind this was the Pentium processor. The Pentium processor was taken out of production in September 1997 having been superseded by its newer Pentium MMX & Pentium II counterparts.

To find out what the Pentium processor offers today's PC user, read on (overleaf).


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© Copyright, Anthony Barrett 1999/2000.