IBM has signed up Verdix Corp, Chantilly, Virginia to do a version of its Verdix Ada Development System for IBM’s AIX version of Unix on the RT, PS/2 and 370s. Terms were not given, and Verdix noted that IBM forbids it to discuss the likely impact on its figures that will result. The move is […]
IBM has signed up Verdix Corp, Chantilly, Virginia to do a version of its Verdix Ada Development System for IBM’s AIX version of Unix on the RT, PS/2 and 370s. Terms were not given, and Verdix noted that IBM forbids it to discuss the likely impact on its figures that will result. The move is a significant one, for up to now, IBM has gone it alone on Ada. Intel iAPX-86 Announcements Intel tailors 80486 to fight off the fierce challenge mounted by RISC microprocessors Intel Corp revealed the details of its new i80486 microprocessor this week at the Comdex/Spring exhibition in Chicago, where early Silicon was demonstrated running MS-DOS and OS/2. The 80486, which is fully binary compatible with the 80386 – which Intel irritatingly has rechristened the 80386DX – D for Double, to distinguish it from the 16-bit bus 80386SX – S for Single – parts, is intended to compete directly with the current batch of RISC processors, and according to Intel outperforms the Sun Microsystems Sparc and comes close to the Motorola 88000 and MIPS Computer Systems R3000 chips, scaled to the same clock cycle. At its core, the 80486 has an upwards compatible superset of the 80386 architecture, including all 80386 instructions and 80387 floating point instructions, an on chip paging and memory management, the functionality of an 82385 cache controller, and an 8Kb instruction and data cache. Initially to be available in 25MHz and 33MHz versions, the chip provides from two to four times the performance of 80386 processors running at the same clock speeds: Intel quotes 15 VAX MIPS for the 25MHz version, and 20 MIPS for the 33MHz system. Implemented in Intel’s 1 micron CHMOS IV process, the 1.2m transistor chip uses pipelining and RISC design techniques to implement a core of widely used instructions (such as load, store and so forth) to execute in a single clock cycle, surrounded by a complex instruction set computing shell. It also includes a new burst data transfer mechanism that enables four 32-bit words to be read from memory at once to keep on-chip cache and instruction queues filled. Multiprocessing support is provided through new instructions and cache consistency protocols. And, for the future, Intel has signed up with Prime Computer Inc for it to start work on an ECL version of the chip. Samples of 25MHz 80486 processors will be ready in the third quarter, with production quantities promised for the fourth quarter, priced at $950 when you buy 1,000 or more. It can be expected that small, enthusiastic companies that will never build machines in more than hundreds, will start announcing products built around the chip shortly after the middle of the year. The 33MHz version, which Intel has not yet priced, will be sampling by fourth quarter. Intel estimates that 80486-based systems from major companies will begin to appear on the market early next year, and will be in the $10,000 plus price range. Amongst those with plans for new machines include Olivetti, Philips, Sequent Computer Systems, Sun Microsystems and Unisys Corp – but more interesting would be a list of companies currently building 80386 machines that won’t be moving on to the 80486. Even IBM, careful not to pre-announce any products – the IBM rules on preannouncement of products are very strict: it is never done except where IBM’s competitive advantage suggests that it should be, or in private when a customer needs to be dissuaded from buying from a competitor – said it would continue to base products on Intel’s processor platform. First peripheral chips for 80486 Along with the i486, Intel introduced a family of support chips, including the 82596 local area network co-processor, the 85C508 programmable logic device, direct memory access controller, and two chip sets to support the two rival 32-bit buses – the proposed Extended Industry Standard Architecture bus favoured by Compaq Computer and its followers – Intel says that this is the first EISA chip set to be implemented, and IBM’s Micro Channel Architecture bus. Faced with the fact that any significant IBM product has to be produc
ed in much greater quantities to meet early demand than those from any other company, it is likely that the first Micro Channel 80486 machines will come not from IBM but from some upstart competitor. The input-output performance of the original AT bus is too slow to take full advantage of the chip. The 80486 will also be able to share data with the 80860, since the cache controller works with both chips, so that the 80860 will be usable as an applications accelerator on both 80386- and 80486-based hardware. Spur to conversion of software to 32-bit as Microsoft promises 80486 support Although Intel made frequent reference to the $15,000m software base for the new chip, surprisingly little standard MS-DOS software has yet been upgraded to 32-bit operation. Waving a catalogue of 149 applications that had been moved over, Intel said it expected the wider range of performance now offered with the addition of the 80486 and cheaper 80386 options, would spur software developers to upgrade their products. The company also expects to see more software converted from other processor architectures, particularly the Motorola 680X0 family, where a lot of technical software aimed at workstations originated. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has come out strongly in favour of the 80486, calling it the architecture for the rest of this century, and accordingly, Microsoft has admitted that it is working on a version of OS/2 for the 80386 and 80486 processors – the so-called OS/3 or OS/2 386. According to Gates, the new version will be available to developers this year. Also available towards the end of the year will be Intel’s multi-processor Unix, on which it is working in conjunction with Olivetti, AT&T, Prime and others: it will provide transparent symmetrical multi-processing on the 80486, and the 80386 and 80860. 33MHz 80386, low-power 80386SX While everyone waits for the 80486, Intel still needs to do business with its current lines, and so the 80486 was accompanied by several additions to the 80386 range, with a 33MHz version rated at 8 VAX MIPS – the chip has been heavily pre-announced by manufacturers, one of the first being Tandon Corp at Hannover last month. Priced at $367 when you buy 1,000 or more, the part comes in at 36% lower than the $575 introductory price of the original 25MHz edition – the cost savings being due to Intel’s use of the 1 micron CHMOS IV technology also used for the 80486. The 25MHz version, also reimplemented in 1 micron CMOS, now costs $338 for 1,000-up. Intel also introduced low-power versions of the 80386SX chip that will operate at temperatures of up to 100o Centigrade, a temperature appcommon in laptops with restricted airflow – in sunbaked cars, par example. The low power consumption saves on batteries and the 1,000-up price is $253.