AMD has long been the subject of a polarizing debate among technology enthusiasts. The chapters in its history provide ample ammunition for countless discussions and rancor is no small measure. Given that it was once considered the equivalent of Intel, many wonder why AMD is failing today. However, it is probably appropriate to ask how the company has survived for so long – a question we intend to explore as we revisit the company’s past, examine its present and its future. Let’s look
Founded in May 1969 by seven Fairchild Semiconductor employees led by Jerry Sanders, Fairchild’s director of marketing, you could say that AMD focused its early efforts on redesigning parts from Fairchild and National Semiconductor rather than making new ones. Established himself as an underdog from the get-go. As did Intel with the iconic 4004. While it came to a close in the early 2000s, as we’ll discuss shortly, the company has struggled largely to shake off its image of being Intel’s shadow.
In 1969, a few months after its construction, AMD moved from Santa Clara, California—Intel’s hometown—to Sunnyvale, bringing with it redesigned integrated circuits (ICs) that brought increased efficiency, stress tolerance, and speed. Used to increase AMD designed its chips to meet US military specifications, which proved to be a considerable advantage in the nascent computer industry where quality control was extremely diverse. The design and production of logic ICs continued to grow.
By 1975, AMD had become a big company. That year saw the introduction of the Am2900 IC family, which included multiplexers, ALUs, system clock generators and memory controllers – individual IC blocks now found in modern CPUs, but were separate integrated circuits at the time. AMD also introduced reverse engineering Intel’s 8080 processor. Originally called the AM9080, it was renamed the 8080A in 1976 after AMD and Intel signed a cross-licensing agreement. AMD cost: $325,000 ($1.3 million in today’s dollars).
The 8085 (3 MHz) processor followed in 1977 and was soon followed by the 8086 (8 MHz) as well as the 8088 (5–10 MHz) in 1979, a year in which production began at AMD’s Austin, Texas facility. Happened. The beginning of 1982 marked the beginning of a new phase of the company. When IBM began to move from mainframes to PCs, the organization decided to outsource parts rather than develop them in-house. Intel’s 8086 processor was chosen with the condition that AMD act as a second source to guarantee continuous supply for IBM’s PC/AT.
A contract was signed between Intel and AMD in February 1982, with the latter producing the 8086, 8088, 80186 and 80188 processors, not only for IBM, but for a number of IBM clones that – especially From Compaq. AMD also began production of the Intel 80286 as the AM286 near the end of the year. This was to become the first truly significant desktop PC processor, and while Intel’s models typically ranged from 6–10 MHz, AMD started at 8 MHz and moved up to 16–20 MHz – a setback against Intel.
This period represented a huge growth of the fledgling PC market. Given that AMD had offered the AM 286 with a significant speed increase over the 80286, Intel attempted to stop AMD in its tracks by excluding them from the next generation 386 processors. The arbitration took four-and-a-half years to complete, and when the decision found that Intel was not obligated to transfer every new product to AMD, it was determined that the large chipmaker violated an implied covenant of good faith. Was.
Intel denied AMD access to the 386 license during a critical period when the market share of IBM PCs increased from 55% to 84%. Left without access to Intel’s specifications, AMD took five years to reverse-engineer the 80386 into the Am386, but once it was perfected it proved to be more than a match for Intel’s design. Where the Intel 386 peaked at 33 MHz, the M386DX hit 40 MHz, closing in on the 486’s performance. This was probably the first example of AMD offering a notoriously superior performance/price ratio.
The success of the Am386 was followed by the 1993 release of the highly competitive 40MHz Am486, which offered about 20% more performance than Intel’s 33MHz i486 at the same price. This was to be repeated through the entire 486 line up, and while Intel’s 486DX topped out at 100 MHz, presumably at this stage, AMD offered a snappier 120 MHz option. To better explain AMD’s good fortune over this period, the company’s revenue doubled from just $1 billion in 1990 to more than $2 billion in 1994.
In 1995, AMD introduced the Am5x86 processor as a successor to the 486, offering it as a direct upgrade to older computers. The Am5x86 P75+ boasted a 150 MHz frequency, with a “P75” reference performance that matches Intel’s Pentium 75.