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Microchips That Shook the World

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the seismo-eighty-six dept.

Technology 185

wjousts writes "IEEE Spectrum has an interesting article on '25 Microchips That Shook the World,' including such classics as the Signetics NE555 Timer, MOS Technology 6502 Microprocessor (Apple II, Commodore PET and the brain of Bender) and the Intel 8088 Microprocessor. Quoting: 'Among the many great chips that have emerged from fabs during the half-century reign of the integrated circuit, a small group stands out. Their designs proved so cutting-edge, so out of the box, so ahead of their time, that we are left groping for more technology clichés to describe them. Suffice it to say that they gave us the technology that made our brief, otherwise tedious existence in this universe worth living.'"

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Anonymous Coward (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27794047)

FP!? Yah. FP Anonymously.

Print Link, The 25 in a list (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27794049)

PRINT ARTICLE (instead of the 5 separate pages):
http://spectrum.ieee.org/print/8747 [ieee.org]

The 25:
1 - Signetics NE555 Timer (1971)
2 - Texas Instruments TMC0281 Speech Synthesizer (1978)
3 - MOS Technology 6502 Microprocessor (1975)
4 - Texas Instruments TMS32010 Digital Signal Processor (1983)
5 - Microchip Technology PIC 16C84 Microcontroller (1993)
6 - Fairchild Semiconductor A741 Op-Amp (1968)
7 - Intersil ICL8038 Waveform Generator (circa 1983*)
8 - Western Digital WD1402A UART (1971)
9 - Acorn Computers ARM1 Processor (1985)
10 - Kodak KAF-1300 Image Sensor (1986)
11 - IBM Deep Blue 2 Chess Chip (1997)
12 - Transmeta Corp. Crusoe Processor (2000)
13 - Texas Instruments Digital Micromirror Device (1987)
14 - Intel 8088 Microprocessor (1979)
15 - Micronas Semiconductor MAS3507 MP3 Decoder (1997)
16 - Mostek MK4096 4-Kilobit DRAM (1973)
17 - Xilinx XC2064 FPGA (1985)
18 - Zilog Z80 Microprocessor (1976)
19 - Sun Microsystems SPARC Processor (1987)
20 - Tripath Technology TA2020 AudioAmplifier (1998)
21 - Amati Communications Overture ADSL Chip Set (1994)
22 - Motorola MC68000 Microprocessor (1979)
23 - Chips & Technologies AT Chip Set (1985)
24 - Computer Cowboys Sh-Boom Processor (1988)
25 - Toshiba NAND Flash Memory (1989)

( mod me up so some karmawhore will find themselves FAIL'd )

Re:Print Link, The 25 in a list (3, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794331)

Five pages really isn't bad though, there's a lot of reading per page, whereas a typical site might have one page or more for the explanation as to why each chip was considered significant.

Also, just listing the "winners" doesn't do justice to the article.

Re:Print Link, The 25 in a list (1)

drissel (123701) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795083)

For this software guy, my two biggest were the Intel 8251 and the first Western Digital winchester drive controller.

They ended the roll-your-own-but-do-it-wrong era.

Regards,
    Bill Drissel

The 8088? Oh, please! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27794337)

FTFA:
Among the many great chips that have emerged from fabs during the half-century reign of the integrated circuit...Intel's 8088

Wrong. The 8088 was a technical nightmare with a crappy architecture . It just got lucky. IBM's justifiable preference was Motorola's infinitely superior 68000. Unfortunately, the 68000 was 9 months to a year away form production and the 8088 was in production 'now'. IBM felt that it had do it 'now' or miss the market window, so they (reluctantly) went with the 8088. A combination of perfect timing, luck, great marketing form IBM and Intel then and superb marketing strategy from Intel (the best selling sow's ear ever) sealed its place in history as a marketing success, but by no means a technical marvel.

Re:The 8088? Oh, please! (5, Funny)

x2A (858210) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794931)

"The 8088 was a technical nightmare with a crappy architecture . It just got lucky. IBM's justifiable preference was Motorola's infinitely superior 68000. Unfortunately, the 68000 was 9 months to a year away"

Yeah, I hear ya, the architecture of a chip is much more important than whether it exists or not.

Re:The 8088? Oh, please! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27795699)

Then it should have been the 4004, the first CPU evar.

Re:The 8088? Oh, please! (5, Interesting)

Sanat (702) | more than 4 years ago | (#27796021)

I will never forget that it was in 1972 and I was troubleshooting a logic board for Wang Laboratories' 1200 Word Processor and I encountered a 4004 chip for the first time in a schematic. I realized at that instant that the whole computer paradigm would shift with the new types of chips and that the old computer methodologies would then become extinct.

I never dreamed how quickly or how convincingly this would occur. Up to that time a computer for me consisted of a whole room full of a CPU and memory and now it all was on a small board with high density chips.

That is when I realized that becoming a Cobol, Fortran and C programmer would be a way of extending my talents. Of course everyone who worked on a main frame knew the associated assembler code so the Intel assembler was just another assembler technique and it was taken pretty much in stride.

Back then we did not even have ROM chips and so we used a wire laced through 44 coils and by strobing the wire,a 44 bit readout was produced which included the next wire to strobe. Depending on whether the wire was laced through the coil or around it would determine if the value was a 1 or 0. Doctor Wang was a genius when it came to those early designs.

Re:The 8088? Oh, please! (5, Interesting)

Thomasje (709120) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795709)

The 8088 was a technical nightmare with a crappy architecture . It just got lucky. IBM's justifiable preference was Motorola's infinitely superior 68000. Unfortunately, the 68000 was 9 months to a year away form production and the 8088 was in production 'now'. IBM felt that it had do it 'now' or miss the market window, so they (reluctantly) went with the 8088.

The 8088 was a big step forward compared to the 8080, 8085, and Z80, which were the dominant CPUs for "personal computers" in the late '70s and early '80s. The 8088 could address one megabyte of memory without needing any external bank-switching hardware, and it had 16-bit registers throughout, and it could run at higher clocks than the aforementioned 8-bit CPUs of the time. Compared to the 64 kilobyte address space of the 8080/8085/Z80 and the 6502, this was a big improvement, and, as lame as it may sound today, a CPU with 16-bit registers and a 4.77 MHz clock was pretty fast compared to what existed in personal computers at the time.

The 8088 really was a significant improvement. Yes, the 68000 was better, but it wasn't available in quantity yet, but perhaps even more importantly, choosing the x86 for the PC meant that software like WordStar and DBase and others, which was written in 8080 assembly language, could be ported to the new platform relatively easily. Porting 8080 code to the 68000 means rewriting everything; porting that same code to the x86 at least makes it possible to reuse some code -- because the x86 assembler can grok 8080 assembly language. Yes, you have to deal with the x86 segmented memory model, and with the differences between the CP/M system calls and those of MS-DOS, but those chores are still a lot less onerous than having to rewrite *everything*.

Neither Intel nor Microsoft "got lucky" when IBM defined the PC architecture. Those were the technologies that made the most sense at the time.

Re:Print Link, The 25 in a list (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27794401)

I think they forgot something, not just a chip but a whole series... the 74XX TTLs.

Re:Print Link, The 25 in a list (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27794717)

PRINT ARTICLE (instead of the 5 separate pages):
http://spectrum.ieee.org/print/8747 [ieee.org]

The 25:
1 - Signetics NE555 Timer (1971)
2 - Texas Instruments TMC0281 Speech Synthesizer (1978)
3 - MOS Technology 6502 Microprocessor (1975)
4 - Texas Instruments TMS32010 Digital Signal Processor (1983)
5 - Microchip Technology PIC 16C84 Microcontroller (1993)
6 - Fairchild Semiconductor A741 Op-Amp (1968)
7 - Intersil ICL8038 Waveform Generator (circa 1983*)
8 - Western Digital WD1402A UART (1971)
9 - Acorn Computers ARM1 Processor (1985)
10 - Kodak KAF-1300 Image Sensor (1986)
11 - IBM Deep Blue 2 Chess Chip (1997)
12 - Transmeta Corp. Crusoe Processor (2000)
13 - Texas Instruments Digital Micromirror Device (1987)
14 - Intel 8088 Microprocessor (1979)
15 - Micronas Semiconductor MAS3507 MP3 Decoder (1997)
16 - Mostek MK4096 4-Kilobit DRAM (1973)
17 - Xilinx XC2064 FPGA (1985)
18 - Zilog Z80 Microprocessor (1976)
19 - Sun Microsystems SPARC Processor (1987)
20 - Tripath Technology TA2020 AudioAmplifier (1998)
21 - Amati Communications Overture ADSL Chip Set (1994)
22 - Motorola MC68000 Microprocessor (1979)
23 - Chips & Technologies AT Chip Set (1985)
24 - Computer Cowboys Sh-Boom Processor (1988)
25 - Toshiba NAND Flash Memory (1989)

( mod me up so some karmawhore will find themselves FAIL'd )

What about the IBM Cell Processor (2005). Bringing peta-flops to Folding@Home certain qualifies as an amazing contribution, even if the PS3 itself hasn't ruled the console market.

Re:Print Link, The 25 in a list (4, Interesting)

jo42 (227475) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794869)

They completely missed the 74XX [wikipedia.org] series of chips. So much stuff was built with them back in the day...

Re:Print Link, The 25 in a list (1)

marafa (745042) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795881)

so there has been no innovative microchip since 1989. is there a reason for that?

Re:Print Link, The 25 in a list (4, Interesting)

Mr Z (6791) | more than 4 years ago | (#27796179)

I'm not convinced. Some of these were just lucky, and rode the wave when the world shook, as opposed to shaking the world. The 555? Yes, truly sublime. The 741 op-amp? So fundamental, you couldn't imagine the world without it. But the 6502? A lucky near-clone of the 6800 that was popular not because it was particularly innovative, but because it was cheap. The 8088? The bastard stepchild of the 8086 which lucked out in getting picked over the 68000 in the IBM PC.

Others are just interesting historical detours. Deep Blue and Transmeta Crusoe both were very interesting technologically, but they are in some sense interesting historical cul de sacs. The Explorer [wikipedia.org] and related LISP machines [wikipedia.org], Intel's iAPX432 [wikipedia.org], and the INMOS Transputer [wikipedia.org] also hang out in this neighborhood.

DMD? Ok... that one always felt as if it was a project that succeeded only by application of the principle that with sufficient thrust, any pig will fly.

Anyway... I guess any list like this is subjective.

All of them great (4, Insightful)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794055)

Even as a modern EE/robotics guy I use some of those parts today (555 timers in particular). I can't imagine the pain you'd have to go to to do some of the things they were used for in their heyday with discrete transistors and passive components.

Re:All of them great (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27794155)

I can't imagine the pain you'd have to go to to do some of the things they were used for in their heyday with 555 timers...

There, fixed that for you...

Really though, an ATtiny AVR will replace the 555 with a lot more flexibility, fewer passives and better accuracy...
Cost wise, about the same....
The 555 does have a wider voltage range however...

Long live the AVR....

Re:All of them great (4, Interesting)

kbob88 (951258) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794169)

I'm continually amazed at all the stuff people get the 555 to do. Just google '555 circuit', and be prepared for some major geek accomplishments.

Re:All of them great (2, Interesting)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794275)

The chip gives you a set of building blocks [emcelettronica.com], so there is great flexibility in how you can combine them. There's probably some similarity to good software API design here, where you provide orthogonal features that the user can combine however he likes, allowing a small API to provide lots of functionality.

Re:All of them great (3, Funny)

frieko (855745) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794293)

As a young whippersnapper I imagine the pain of reading the 555 datasheet whenever I flash a timer to an 8-pin microcontroller ;)

Re:All of them great (4, Informative)

NoMaster (142776) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794411)

As an old fart, I wonder why you'd rather use a microcontroller with all the attendant pickyness over I/O and supply voltage stability and noise and costing > $1 in bulk, over a 555 that'll work in fairly noisy conditions from 5~15v and costs a few cents in bulk.

Horses for courses; just try getting your microcontroller to do something like flash an LED in a car without all the extra supply regulation and filtering. A 555 will do it with 6 additional components, including the LED, for less than $1 ;-)

Re:All of them great (3, Interesting)

NoMaster (142776) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794531)

(Actually, you've just inspired me. Someday I'm gonna build a calculator, based on a 8 pin micro, to display the optimum R1, R2, & C for a given frequency on an LCD screen.

I might even throw in calculation of values for monostable and bistable mode ;-)

Re:All of them great (1)

frieko (855745) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794643)

PIC10F200, 41 cents
5 volt regulator, 16 cents
LED
resistor
Vdd capacitor

To each his own; I was really just looking for an excuse to use the word 'whippersnapper'. (And as a coincidence I do have a uC in my car, it fools my crappy tape deck into thinking my iPod is the factory trunk-mount cd changer.)

Re:All of them great (4, Interesting)

NoMaster (142776) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794799)

Sorry, should have said AU$ ;-)

A PIC 10F200 costs AU$1.24 in > 25 quantities, compared to an NE555 at AU$0.429 / unit, AU$0.351 > 10+, or AU$0.26 > 250+

And yeah, I was just poking fun at whippersnappers who automatically put a micro into everything. Don't forget to amortise the cost of your programmer hardware & coding time ;-)

You also forgot the Vcc cap - don't worry, so did I with my mental zener-based supply. Don't want your regulator latching up or self-destructing on +- supply spikes, do you? ;-)

(Aside: I once built a set of Knightrider lights for my car (OK, OK - feel free to poke fun at me for that but, in my defence, it was the 80's ;-) based on a 555, a BCD up/down counter, and a BCD-decimal decoder. I didn't filter the supply well enough, but that had the advantage of when it started working erratically by skipping lights or suddenly reversing direction, I knew it was time to change the distributor points ;-)

Re:All of them great (1)

Temkin (112574) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795649)

I didn't filter the supply well enough, but that had the advantage of when it started working erratically by skipping lights or suddenly reversing direction, I knew it was time to change the distributor points ;-)

I'll wager a 555 in 8 pin TO can that half of Slashdot knows nothing of distributors or points. ;-)

Re:All of them great (1)

tuxicle (996538) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795859)

And I'll wager, um, a 555 in a DIP or SOIC that more than half of Slashdot doesn't know what a TO can is :)

Re:All of them great (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27795861)

You do know that it is illegal to put red lights on the front of a non-emergency vehicle, don't you?

Not so great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27795005)

> PIC10F200, 41 cents
> 5 volt regulator, 16 cents
> LED
> resistor
> Vdd capacitor

This Bill of Materials is not gonna land your thingamajig in the dollar store!

Better:

NC7S14P (Single gate '14 Schmitt trigger inverter in sc70) : 4 Cents
2 R's: 2x 0.5 cent
2 C's: 2x 1 cent
Led: you get what you pay for

Runs from 2 to 6 Volts directly off your battery

Re:All of them great (1, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794747)

The PIC does it with three external components -- a regulator and a capacitor for power, and a resistor to help drive the LED. If you run at lower supply voltages you can omit the resistor and use the output impedance of the PIC instead, provided you don't care about tweaking the power consumption. Lower parts count and less board area is cheaper, and the PIC is only marginally more expensive than the 555.

And not only is the PIC cheaper, it can do a better job for most circuits. It will operate a more accurate long-period timer without precision components, and do it at sub-microamp power consumption.

At the extreme end, I can make a PIC blink an LED only when it's dark out, using only a CR2032 coin cell, a PIC, and LED. Let's see you get a 555 to do anything useful with two external components, including the battery.

Of course, I say all that, but I prefer to build my circuits with op amps instead of PICs, and I debug them with a Tek 561A. Heck, in the right context a medium speed op amp or three has more compute power than a PIC...

Re:All of them great (2, Informative)

mako1138 (837520) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795049)

The PIC requires some infrastructure, though: compiler/assembler, programmer. The 555 requires no external programming.

That said, it's amazing what you can do with a dirt-cheap microcontroller these days.

Re:All of them great (2, Insightful)

servodave (812645) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795027)

TRUTH! I've used both AVR's and 555's extensively. 100's of circuits with each over the years. Micros have their place, but they are too picky about too many things. The 555 is bulletproof and listing it as #1 is very appropriate. All hail the lm555.

Re:All of them great (2, Interesting)

mikael (484) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795315)

My hardware engineering professor once told us this story.

One time the air force were looking for a visual system to detect airmen who had parachuted into the ocean. The requirements were that the visual system should have a 180 field of view in order to detect a single point of orange to a distance of several miles, be able to work within a fixed temperature range, require the minimum of maintenance and be vibration resistant. Two solutions were proposed.

The first system was a real-time video system with multiple processors and cameras. This would be built from industrial PC's and reinforced chassis with a power supply from the aircraft.

The second system consisted of a couple of detachable cages on each side of the helicopter. Each cage was air-conditioned using the warm air from the engine, had a window and a row of pecking buttons. The pigeons were trained to peck the button whenever they saw a point of orange light. Whenever three or more pigeons started pecking, an alarm would go off in the cabin.

During tests, the pigeon based system had a higher accuracy rate than the electronic system.

Re:All of them great (2, Insightful)

aynoknman (1071612) | more than 4 years ago | (#27796029)

Yeah but cleaning the bottom of the cage under the real-time video system with multiple processors and cameras is easier.

Re:All of them great (0, Redundant)

cibyr (898667) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794685)

I was about to post something very similar - why would anyone bother with a 555 these days when you can get an ATtiny for under a dollar?

Re:All of them great (2, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794805)

The operational basics of the 555 are completely explained by a half-page functional block diagram. You can easily fit all the important max ratings and speeds and such on the other half of the page. Even the 10F200 has a 96 page data sheet (though to be fair, to be that thorough about the 555 would probably require 2 or 3 pages, not just one).

The PIC has a lot going for it when compared to a 555, but simplicity is not one of those things.

Re:All of them great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27794897)

"I can't imagine the pain you'd have to go to to do some of the things they were used for in their heyday with discrete transistors and passive components."

Progress at times was slower back then, at least by todays standards, but at the time it didn't feel like it was slow as technology back then seemed just as exciting as it is today, because we could do things so much easier than previous decades and do so many new things that would have been extremely difficult to do decades before.

In hindsight looking back, the speed work is done today highlights the ever increasing speed of technological change. For example, as an apprentice engineer I was once set the task of designing traffic lights using only 74xx series components. These days with one AVR its easy in a few hours to create something with a lot more complex functionality. These days its easy to create half a dozen prototype designs in the time it took to create one design back then, so new products are going to be created faster than before.

But then I guess future generations will look back at us and think things like, wow how did they ever get anything done with *only* that technology. :)

386? (1)

Entropy98 (1340659) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794093)

No 386? Protected Mode FTW

Re:386? (5, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794141)

Protected mode was just the x86 architecture welcoming itself back to the reality most other processors already inhabited.

Re:386? (2, Informative)

NoMaster (142776) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794665)

I think you mean "No 286? Protected mode FTW".

The 286 had protected mode; you just couldn't return to real mode (which is where everything ran in those days) without the nasty hardware hack IBM developed for the AT. The big advantage of the 386 over the 286 was that you could return to real mode from protected mode without resetting the CPU via the keyboard controller...

What? (-1, Redundant)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794157)

Agree totally about the 555 but what? No 741 (Op Amp) or 7400 (or any other TTL?) ?
Those were the staples of most electronic projects as kits or in magazines etc.

Re:What? (3, Informative)

Snowblindeye (1085701) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794207)

Agree totally about the 555 but what? No 741 (Op Amp) or 7400 (or any other TTL?) ? Those were the staples of most electronic projects as kits or in magazines etc.

I know reading the FA is frowned upon on slashdot, but if you did, you could find the 741 as number 6.

Re:What? (3, Interesting)

dr2chase (653338) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794357)

What's amazing to me is how the op-amps have been improved. I checked out of analog chips for about 25 years, then had occasion to use them. LM258 -- runs on 3 to 32 volts, rail-to-rail inputs and outputs, uses a whole milliamp to run.

Or the LMC6462 -- 3 to 15 volts, rail-to-rail in and out, 50 microamps supply, and an input resistance of 10 TeraOhms.

Re:What? (3, Interesting)

evanbd (210358) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794887)

The low-power, low-voltage op amps are impressive -- I'll see your LMC6462 and raise you an LT6003: 1.6 to 16 volts, 1uA supply, though the input resistance is slightly worse at 10GOhm (differential) to 2TOhm (common mode).

In some ways more impressive, imho, are the high speed precision op amps. Take a look at the LT1468, for example -- 90MHz, 75uV offset, and settles to 150uV in under a microsecond.

On the other hand, most of my breadboards still begin life with a uA741 or LM324 -- I'd much rather let the smoke out of a cheap op amp than an expensive one. Once the smoke stays in, I'll swap it for the one that will actually act as a precision part.

Re:What? (1)

dr2chase (653338) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795119)

I ended up with the LM258 because it fit my application -- controlling BuckPuck output on a hub dynamo-driven bike light. It needs to be making sense of its inputs with as little as 7.5 volts of power (when the LEDs begin to light) and not catch fire till 32V. But boy howdy, I used a bunch of LM324s in a theater lightboard almost 30 years ago.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27794235)

The 741 is number 6 on the list.

Re:What? (2, Interesting)

NoMaster (142776) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794303)

Yeah, the 741 is there (though I reckon it should be #2, or even #1 - you know you can make a 555-equivalent suitable for most purposes with a couple of 741's and some clever circuit design, right? ;-).

But yeah, the lack of 7400 series (the original TTL versions, not that 74xxC crap ;-) is odd. Definately should be up there ~ #3 or higher. That stuff was the building blocks of computers before dedicated CPUs.

Re:What? (1)

szark (1066530) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794557)

Yeah, the 741 is there (though I reckon it should be #2, or even #1

They aren't ranked, so the numbers don't mean anything. It's just a list of 25 chips in no particular order.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27795209)

...you know you can make a 555-equivalent suitable for most purposes with a couple of 741's and some clever circuit design, right?

Yes, it's called an airport.

6502 - C64 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27794291)

How can you list the PET but not the C64 as an application of the MOS 6502?

Re:6502 - C64 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27794541)

The C64 used a 6510?

The 6502 - coulda, woulda, shoulda... (5, Interesting)

toejam13 (958243) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794325)

Interestingly enough, when Bill Mensch and company designed the 6501 (and later lawsuit modified 6502), they purposely made it very easy to expand it for future use. Although the chip was original designed for use in embedded solutions, several reports suggest that Bill Mensch, as well as fellow designer Chuck Peddle, saw the possibilities of the personal computer. This was around the time that the Altair 8800 was just released.

Bill Mensch attempted to push Commodore for features that might be useful for a personal computer. However, Commodore management rebuffed him. Supposedly frustrated that Commodore management was as short sighted as the Motorola management that he had fled from just a few years earlier, Bill Mensch went on to start his own company designing successors to the 6502.

Over at Western Design Center, Mensch and his sister designed the WDC 65C02, a bugfixed and enhanced version of the MOS 6502, that found its way into the Apple IIc and "enhanced" IIe. They also designed the WDC 65816, an extremely feature enhanced version of the 65C02 that included 16-bit index registers, 24-bit addressing, movable stack and zero page locations, and a host of new ops that allowed for jump tables and position independent code (useful with multitasking OSes and shared libraries).

Just imagine if Commodore had the 65816 in 1980 and released a 16-bit successor to the PET that could handle up to 16MB without the weirdness of bank swapping or segmentation. It would have been very popular with programmers. Smoking the "what if" crack pipe even more, imagine if they ported TRIPOS to the 65816. :)

Too bad they probably would have ruined it by bundling it with a chicklet keyboard.

Re:The 6502 - coulda, woulda, shoulda... (3, Insightful)

PhantomHarlock (189617) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794461)

There's a pretty good write up of those days at MOS in the Rise and Fall of Commodore book that was reviewed here on Slashdot some time ago.

I'm glad the 6502 made the list, along with the 68000 that the Amiga used so well along with Paula, Agnes, Denise etc and its successors the 68020, 040 etc. 8088 of course, and the 555 still in use today as others have mentioned. SPARC was pretty big in its day. Z80. ARM1. Those are the ones that stick out in my head the most.

And yea the Crusoe, I dunno about that.

It's amazing how most of these names are not much more than a word or phrase in the eyes of most people born in the 1990s or late 1980s. To us older chickens they were almost breathing, anthropomorphic beings because of how tightly you could weave assembly code around them and take advantage of their physical properties, bugs and nuances to perform hacks. When computers stopped being quaint hobby machines, they lost their soul. Early steam engines were similar, with highly polished brass, brightwork and victorian scroll work, imbued with the personality of their creators. When the railroads got real big, they became commodities, were painted black and weren't assigned a crew for life, so there was no pride of ownership. Now we are in the the era of the Dell box...I don't build my own machines anymore because it doesn't make any financial sense.

Good times to remember.

Re:The 6502 - coulda, woulda, shoulda... (1)

uassholes (1179143) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794553)

In the late '70s I lusted after an Ohio Scientific 6502 based computer (http://oldcomputers.net/osi-600.html), but had to settle for a used Poly88 8080 based system (http://www.digibarn.com/collections/systems/Poly88/index.html). They were probably equally capable but the OSI seemed sexier. When the IBM PC came out, I lost interest in microcomputers because they had become appliances, like toasters.

Re:The 6502 - coulda, woulda, shoulda... (2, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795077)

Just imagine if Commodore had the 65816 in 1980 and released a 16-bit successor to the PET that could...

According a quote from Chuck Peddle in "Rise and Fall of Commodore", he didn't see much of a demand or need for 16-bit processors. Commodore kicked around the idea of a 16-bit chip, but there didn't seem to be much enthusiasm for it, so it languished. What they saw was pressure for more peripheral features for less cost: cheaper floppies, harddrives, printers, color monitors, etc. And companies were finding ways to address more RAM under 8-bit chips. He suspected that IBM's success with 16-bit was based largely on marketing hype (16 is bigger than 8) and IBM's name.
   

Re:The 6502 - coulda, woulda, shoulda... (1)

toejam13 (958243) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795425)

According a quote from Chuck Peddle in "Rise and Fall of Commodore", he didn't see much of a demand or need for 16-bit processors.

I could see where a 16-bit data bus, such as found on the 68000 and 8086, might have been seen as overkill in 1980. You could even argue that a 16-bit index register was overkill in 1980. However, a flat memory model that could access more than 64KB of data was something that was starting to be important by that point. Commodore's own SuperPET, released in 1981, came with 96KB of RAM and 48KB worth of ROMs. You could also get RAM expansion and ROM expansion kits for the earlier PET 4000 line that pushed memory sizes well above 64KB. By 1982, you had the C64 that couldn't even access all of its RAM without bank switching. It was even worse with the CBM-II series and later C128.

The handwriting was not only on the wall, it was on the ceiling and the floor. The 64KB limit had to go, and bank switching was an evil way to do it. Yet Commodore hung onto bank switching for an obscene amount of time. Even as late as 1989, the unreleased Commodore 65 used a modified 65CE02 core as opposed to a 65816 core. Imagine working on a 1280×200 16 color screen using bank switching.

Next to that stupid zero page boundary bug, nothing annoyed me more as a 650x programmer than bank switching. Several people that I've talked to have agreed with me. It really blew chunks, especially when you were working with large data sets.

Re:The 6502 - coulda, woulda, shoulda... (1)

metamatic (202216) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795885)

Just imagine if Commodore had the 65816 in 1980 and released a 16-bit successor to the PET that could handle up to 16MB without the weirdness of bank swapping or segmentation.

You mean like the Apple IIgs [wikipedia.org]?

Crusoe was a failure (4, Interesting)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794351)

It was nothing special at all and it definitely didn't shake the world. It didn't lead to a bunch of devices using it and it didn't lead to a new path for computing

The presence of this chip on here makes no sense to me.

Oh wait, I just got to where they talk about a Micronas MP3 decoding chip. So I guess this list is a little hit or miss.

I could hardly agree more with the Chips & Technologies AT chipset being on this list. It may have been more important to the success of the 8088 than the 8088 itself was. All of a sudden making a PC clone was easy, and inevitably it became the standard, so standard that now even Macs use the PC architecture.

Re:Crusoe was a failure (3, Insightful)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794965)

Well, the Crusoe did enable x86 to push into the handheld computing market. Although, MIDs and UMPCs haven't exactly taken off, but the Crusoe got the market open for long enough for Intel to bring their entries into the market (the Intel A100 and A110 (underclocked Dothan Pentium Ms,) and later the Atom.)

Motorola 68k (5, Insightful)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794483)

Seriously! How many of us learned assembly with a 68k? How many are in service today. It's like the Mini/Beetle/Model T of the chip world: cheap, simple and with a practically cosmopolitan distribution.

Re:Motorola 68k (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27794683)

For me assembly was learned on 6502 - Apple, Atari, Commodore.. I learned a lot of C on the 68k(Amiga and AT&T UnixPC) but not as much assembly.

6502 and 680x0 both! (4, Insightful)

Slur (61510) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794857)

Yep, I learned my first Assembly Language on the 6502 back in 1983 or so, and had just started writing cool, fast game and utility software on the Atari 800 around 1985 using the very nice Atari Macro Assembler, when *boom* the era of Atari was over.

So I moved to the Amiga and programmed that lovely machine in 680x0 assembler using the slick "DevPac" programming environment by HiSoft. Bad geek that I was, I never learned Intuition or any of the Amiga system calls, but went straight to the hardware for the titles I worked on, namely "Dino Wars" and "Bill 'n' Ted's Excellent Adventure" (apologies for both). Then *boom* the Amiga was dead.

After a long hiatus from programming I got a PowerMac. On the Mac the first software I bought was the fringe macro assembler "Fantasm" by Lightsoft, thinking I'd be a Mac Assembler guru, but alas, Apple had moved from 680x0 to the PowerPC by that time, and only insane maniacs program that chip directly in Assembler.

So finally, in 1995 I finally learned C, and a few years later C++.

Of course nowadays I learn a new programming language every year and an entirely new framework or API every couple of months.

Re:6502 and 680x0 both! (3, Interesting)

_merlin (160982) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795753)

LOL, I must be an insane maniac, as I like programming in PPC assembler (SPARC, too, FWIW). I get to do a bit of assembly language at work for synchronisation primitives and such, but never whole applications any more. I miss being able to use more assembler.

Re:Motorola 68k (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27795001)

Man I was there and I am still in service :) but maybe not the 68K which, IMHO, has a better architecture than the x86.

Re:Motorola 68k (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27795501)

The 68000 wasn't exactly the only popular Motorola chip either. I've seen TONS of stuff use 6805 and 6809's (for example TRS-80's).

An awful lot of embedded stuff these days still use a superset of the 6805 instruction set (including Atmel's AVR series, ST Micro's ST7 series and so on).

So I still get to use Motorola-style assembly I learned more than 20 years ago to this day.

A plug for Hans Camendzind's book (3, Interesting)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794501)

Too awkward to compose a URL at the moment, but if you're a pro or more-advanced hobbyist you should google the 555 chip's designer, Hans Camendzind . He released a nifty book on basic analog IC design that never got the attention it deserved IMHO. I believe it's downloadable as a PDF from his site.

8088 - Gakk! (4, Interesting)

swm (171547) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794517)

The 8088 is a twisted, flawed architecture.

In true QWERTY fashion, it got a lock on the market by solving an immediate problem: the need to get beyond a 16-bit address space in a single-chip microprocessor. We are hamstrung by its limitations to this day.

See

Limitations of the IBM PC Architecture

                        or

        The Curse of Segments

http://world.std.com/~swmcd/steven/rants/pc.html [std.com]

Re:8088 - Gakk! (4, Informative)

Thomasje (709120) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794797)

What rock have you been living under? The linked rant/article is from 1992! Contrary to what it says, the limitations of the 8088 architecture *were* overcome by the 386, but that article was written before DOS extenders allowing protected-mode applications became common, never mind Windows adding protected-mode support. The Windows world has had a flat address space for many years now, and the segmented aspects of x86 are only supported for non-performance-critical legacy code.

Re:8088 - Gakk! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27794815)

We've moved past those limitations. Yes, they still exist in the modern Core-class Intel CPUs (and the AMD equivalents). However, as soon as you boot into Windows XP, Windows Vista, Linux, Mac OS X, or just about any other OS on the market today, you're put into 386 protected mode. This includes support for a 32 bit flat memory addressing model, which just happens to be the addressing model used by these operating systems.

Long mode (in x86-64) extends that further, into a 64 bit flat addressing model.

So while segments were a bad design choice, looking back with the benefit of hindsight, it is not the case that it's hamstringing us today.

That rant was written in 1992. 17 years ago. Newsflash: technology has moved on since then, and the x86 flaws are just a speck on the side of the instruction set decoder nowadays.

Once could say we don't have enough segments... (2, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795793)

Actually, one could make the argument that we do not have enough segments. Were there more segments available within an application, you could have theoretically eliminated some sorts of attacks caused by buffer overruns.

Looking back at the time, going from segments to flat was a godsend. However, going from segments to selectors would have been probably better from a security standpoint, although computers would be slower.

386, agreed (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794527)

The article is "Microchips That Shook the World", not "Great microchips"

The 80386 along with the C&T chipset ignited the IBM PC clone industry.

Re:386, agreed (1)

NoMaster (142776) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794589)

The C&T chipset certainly gave it a bump-along, but there were IBM PC clones around well before the 80386. Sales of original 8086/8088 genuine IBM PCs were dwarfed by sales of 8086/8088/V20-based clones, well before the 80386 was even developed.

G4, G5? (1, Interesting)

PollyAnna (1388563) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794613)

I remember when the Apple G4 and G5 were not allowed in some countries because they were considered "supercomputers". I think that qualifies as "shaking the world".

Re:G4, G5? (1)

dafing (753481) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795029)

agreed, typing this on my Dual G5 Power Mac G5 :)

Also, the Playstation 2 was classed as a supercomputer, its a marketing gimmick right? The thing with the PS2 was, you couldnt ship it overseas, or else "the tur-rusts will use it to steer cruise missiles".

Good for you , bringing up the G4 and G5.

4000 Series CMOS (1)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794625)

OK, not a chip but a chip family - but surely one that, perhaps even more than the 7400 series, influenced an entire generation of engineers and circuit designs. It really was the first major series that allowed you to pretty much bolt together designs, lego-fashion, from building blocks without really worrying about interfacing too much. In comparison the 7400 series was much fussier with limited fanout and fan-in, and a fixed 5v supply. CMOS was BASIC to the 7400's COBOL.

Missed a couple (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794627)

LIke the ix432 ( check my nick.. you will understand ), AMD 29xx. Video chip sets too, like the ET4000 which brought 'accelerated vga' to the masses. Eproms.. .

That is the problem with any list, its YOUR list.

But i agree with most of it.

Zilog Z80 (2, Interesting)

TW Burger (646637) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794671)

I wrote an operating system and hardware drivers for a Z80 based embedded system in 1986. It was and still is a great processor as long as you only need 8 bits.

555 survivor (1)

mapuche (41699) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794765)

Chips usually have a short manufacture life. It's amazing the 555 timer is still in use, even after 556 (two 555 in one chip).

Missing categories of chips (1)

MagikSlinger (259969) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794825)

For example, the video chips that launched a revolution. From SGI's original graphics accelerators through the Amiga's "fat agnes" to the early nVidia and ATI cards.

But I do admit I like the fact they included the 555 and 701. Such fond memories breadboarding with those things...

Where is the DARPA RISC-I? Standford MIPS? (3, Informative)

toejam13 (958243) | more than 4 years ago | (#27794835)

For as groundbreaking that the ARM processor series, it was beat to the punch by DARPA. Not only did they help give us the Internet, they also helped with the evolution of chips that power your PDAs and smart phones that use the Internet.

Now for a trip back in time... supposedly during the late 1970s, processor design was starting to hit the limits of manual design. These were still the days of designing a microprocessor on paper. The military, a huge consumer of microchips at the time, decided to sponsor research into the creation of standardized processes for microprocessor design. The result was DARPA's VLSI Project. Standford, UNC/Chapel Hill, Berkeley and others were involved.

Numerous products and organizations came out of the VLSI Project. The BSD fork of AT&T's System-V saw major use and evolution. Networked CAD systems matured, specifically using the Stanford University Network (SUN) workstation, which was commercialized by Sun Microsystems.

Most relevant to the article, though, was the advancement of the "RISC" design. During the 1970s, researchers noted that highly orthogonal processors (where every type of operation, such as ADD, SUB, SHIFT, XOR, etc..., can be used with any kind of memory operator, such as direct, indirect, indexed, etc...) were somewhat wasteful. The vast majority of operations were rarely used. If you restricted those operations to register-only ops, you could really simplify the processor.

RISC architectures are less memory efficient than CISC architectures, something that was important in the 1970s, a time when dinosaurs roamed and 4KB Altairs roamed the world. They are also more tedious to program using assembly languages, also an issue during the 1970s when higher-level language compilers were rather unoptimized. However, by the time that the VLSI Project came around, these limitations were going away.

Since RISC processors are so much easier to design than CISC processors, researchers used their groovy new tools to design one. So in 1982, the DARPA RISC-1 was born, which had less than half the number of transistors as the Motorola 68000. It also ran circles around the 68000. A year later, the RISC-II was released. It was three times as fast as its predecessor.

The RISC design was also a huge advancement for researchers over at Standford. John Hennessy over there was trying to design a new processor that exploited the concept of pipelining. The problem, however, is that CISC instructions have variable (and often long) execution time. This can cause the pipeline to stall since the processor runs dry on data to execute. RISC design solves that problem because most of the operations, with exception of memory load/store ops, are short and quick. Hennessy borrowed these "new" concepts and came up with the MIPS architecture, one of the first popular RISC designs.

Not much later, Acorn Computer, looking to replace the MOS 6502 processor but dissatisfied with the Motorola 68000, National Semiconductor 32016 and others, went looking for a new chip in 1983. They traveled to the States and visited Western Design Center. Seeing how "simple" it was to design a processor, they brainstormed up the concept of the ARM1.

The ARM probably would never have been designed without the advances that came out of the VLSI Project. The ARM2, the first production unit, only contained some 30K transistors. The DARPA RISC-I was 44K while the RISC-II was reduced to 40K. The 68000 was a whopping 70K transistors.

Shook the World? I'd rather just find out about... (3, Interesting)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795191)

I'd rather find out about interesting and unique chips, rather than ones that "shook the world".

Like the Propellar [wikipedia.org], with its interesting interrupt handling, and non-stamped [hackaday.com] design.

Re:Shook the World? I'd rather just find out about (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795757)

The Propeller looks really interesting. I might get one to play with, but I'm disappointed by the lack of Linux support.

I'm also surprised they don't have *any* hardware peripherals on-chip. I'm used to working with the PIC microcontrollers, which give me tons of things like UARTs, USB interface, SPI controller, CAN bus, A/D converters, timers, PWM output, comparators, etc. Obviously some of that can be implemented with one of the cogs, but some of it would be hard or impossible. The lack of hardware multiply and divide support is also annoying.

Most of my projects involve interfacing with the outside world in some non-trivial fashion; the Propeller doesn't do much to make that easy, which is disappointing. I do appreciate that they have a DIP package, though -- most high-performance microcontrollers these days are surface-mount only, which makes breadboards somewhat tricky.

No Opteron???! (1)

warrior (15708) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795341)

While it's relatively new compared to everything on this list, the AMD Opteron, which came out in 2003, will be the face of computing for the foreseeable future. Even now in 2009 AMD's archival Intel is just coming out with integrated memory controllers and high-speed serial direct interconnects. The Opteron also forced Intel to give everyone 64-bit memory addressing in x86 (which Intel wanted to stay in the realm of high-end RISC/Itanium machines).

Opteron wasn't the first chip to have any of these features, but it was the first _x86_ chip to have all of them - making it an affordable "high-end" processor for small businesses and tech junkies. It really was a "world-shaking" product that put AMD on the map. No one expected little AMD to make a splash so big with Opteron (except Intel, which paid off companies to not release Opteron-based products, a55holes!).

The Motorola 6800 (not the 68000) (1)

awfar (211405) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795573)

They could not include every processor, of course, but this was a nice piece of hardware at the time. The Heathkit microprocessor trainers used it (programmed it to play Anchor's Away! as extra credit for retired Navy prof), had accum A, B, and an index register/addressing (the first uP to do so?), 16 bit regs, flat memory space and memory mapped I/O. Preceded the later 6502 which had a similar programming model. It was clean and fun to learn; the Intel architecture has always been foreign to me; was there separate I/O bus instructions? dunno...

Hmm, I would add the 80386 and the 3dfx Voodoo (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#27795641)

I would make the argument that if you were going to pick an Intel CPU, that "shook the world", it would be the 80386 more than the 8088. Dubbed, the mainframe on the chip, it more or less lived up to its hype. Following in the wake of the 80386 came Linux and Windows NT... essentially server operating systems running on a desktop.

The 8088, conversely, was just another personal computer chip. It had some advantages but didn't really change the sorts of operating systems you could make with it. Atari, Apple and IBM DOS's were all single program, single user.

The reason was hardware. It was the 80386 that made it possible to do mainframe type things on a PC.

1) It had access to theoretically gobs of memory, introduced a flat memory model that eliminated once and for all the need to worry about 64k boundaries (this was even an issue with the 68000 - performance reasons),

2) all allowed for hardware based memory protection so that applications wouldn't trounce each other.

3) provided hardware support for virtual memory.

6502 FTMFW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27795863)

.org $8000
        ldx #0
- lda msg,x
        beq +
        jsr $fded
        inx
        bra -
+ bra +
 
msg .db "NMOS FUCK YEAH!", $0d, $0a
.db $00

Will make sense to everyone, but $FDED only to Apple II buffs. :-) And screw Slashdot for messing up the formatting + not supporting PRE.

1982 Siberian explosion - care with what you steal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27796111)

Now that was a chip that shook the world.
The Soviets shopped around for automated pipeline software.
The US gov provided just what they needed.
Computer chips would be designed to pass Soviet quality tests and then to fail in operation.
"to reset pump speeds and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to the pipeline joints and welds. The result was the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space."
http://news.zdnet.co.uk/software/0,1000000121,39147917,00.htm [zdnet.co.uk]

How can I learn electronic design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27796195)

For a number of years now I've worked as a programmer, and I've always wondered about electronics design. I took a few college classes in analogue and digital electronics, but they always seemed to focus mainly on the analysis of circuits or other peripheral issues such as semiconductor physics rather than the design process. As such I still have no idea about electronic design.

Reading this article I wonder how one can develop skills in designing basic circuits that utilize these and other chips? Can anyone recommend some books / courses that offer a relatively painless introduction to how one goes about actually designing and building circuits? Although I have a degree in mathematics / comp sci when I start reading books that are full of theorems and proofs I start to wonder do people in the real world actually use this as a basis of circuit design?

Also is there any open source software for circuit design?

Unfortunately the circuit designer seems to be a relatively rare breed compared to other technology professionals such as programmer.

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