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06-05-2018

1st Intel Pentium processor is shipped, March 22, 1993

Suzanne Deffree

EDN

The first Intel Pentium processor was shipped on March 22, 1993, kicking off what would become a core line for the company and a well-regarded brand to the public.

The name Pentium came from the Greek word pente, meaning "five," referring to Intel's fifth-generation microarchitecture, the P5.

The first chips ran at 60 and 66 MHz clock speeds, used 3.1 million transistors, had 4 GB of addressable memory, and measured 16.7×17.6 mm. It was Intel’s first superscalar x86 microarchitecture and, as a direct extension of the 80486 architecture, it included dual integer pipelines, a faster floating-point unit, wider data bus, separate code and data caches and features for further reduced address calculation latency.

1st Intel Pentium processor is shipped, March 22, 1993

Design work on the first Pentium began in 1989. Intel had planned to demonstrate the P5 in June 1992 at the trade show PC Expo, and to formally announce the processor in September 1992, but design problems forced the demo to be cancelled and the official introduction of the chip was pushed back until the spring of 1993. Even with the delay, upon release, Pentium had some bugs. Perhaps the most famous of which is the Pentium FDIV bug, which saw early versions of 60-100 MHz P5 Pentiums experience a problem in the floating point unit that resulted in incorrect, but predictable, results from some division operations.

1st Intel Pentium processor is shipped, March 22, 1993

The brand survived its initial bumps in the road and has become associated with Intel's mid-range processor series, in between the Celeron and Core series.

The term “Pentium” is also highly recognizable by mainstream electronics users who often associate it with quality computing. It has become such a well-known brand that commemorative key chains featuring the P5 are available from retailers (see image) and, moreover, "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded a parody of "It's All About the Benjamins" by Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs called “It's All About the Pentiums,” that focuses on the narrator's obsession with his computer's hardware.

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