Leading position up to the present

Leading position up to the present

In 1982, Intel introduced its 80286 microprocessor, which represented the high-end of the 16-bit market. Its performance was up to three times the one of any existing 16-bit chip; further, the i80286 had some peculiar features such as "on-chip memory manag ement") supporting multitasking (the ability to run two or more tasks simultaneously using one microcomputer). The 80286 became the heart of the IBM AT (Advanced Technology) and compatibles. By 1988, an installed base of more than 15 million PCs using the 80286 was reached.

However, in the middle of the 1980s, Silicon Valley's whole semiconductor industry was shaken by a severe crisis launched by Japanese price-dumping with ICs, notably DRAMs and EPROMs.

In 1985/1986, Intel was forced to cut salaries, to lay off one third of its total workforce, to close seven factories, and to "abandon several businesses,") such as the DRAMs; created by Intel in the early 1970, "getting out of DRAMs" represented "one of the toughest decisions" the company "ever made," as president and CEO Andy Grove recalls it.)

Regardless of all the cuts, the Intel management yet increased spending on R&D up to 30 percent of revenues in 1986. Therefore after the recession, Intel could continue its leading role in microprocessor technology.

The semiconductor crisis made the U.S. government finally interfere, and in 1987 the dumping in the USA could be stopped. As a result, 12 leading U.S. semiconductor companies such as Intel, Motorola and National Semiconductor, joined forces and founded SEM ANTECH (for SEmiconductor MANufacturing TECHnology) to secure the lead against Japanese computer manufacturers. Famous Bob Noyce, who had contributed to the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley a great deal as the co-inventor of the IC and the founder of Intel, was offered to "lead this consortium as president and CEO.") Bob Noyce decided to accept in 1988, and executed the leading role at SEMANTECH until his death in 1990.

In 1985, Intel had introduced the Intel386 chip, a 32-bit microprocessor consisting of 275,000 transistors (over 100 times as many as the first 4004 microprocessor). The 80386 reaches a performance of 5 million instructions per second (MIPS), and is yet co mpatible to its predecessors (the x86 family), which means that it can run all the software written for them.

The next landmark in Intel's microprocessor line was the i486 CPU, which was introduced to the public in 1989. With its 1.2 million transistors, it set new measures in the density of integration; with about 15 MIPS, the Intel486 offered the "performance of a mainframe computer on a single chip.") Further, this CPU incorporated the math coprocessor and a fast 8 KByte SRAM Cache on the chip. By 1992, the i486 microprocessor had become "the chip of choice for mainstream business computing.")

The present "state-of-the-art" microprocessor is Intel's first 64-bit CPU - the Pentium (P5). With more than 3 million transistors and a performance of more than 100 MIPS (that is about 250 times the performance of the 8088 which was used in the first IBM PC), Intel's latest microprocessor "powers high-end PCs, network servers and workstations - and can still run every piece of software" ever written for any of its predecessors (8086/88, 286, i386, i486).)

Each generation of those CPUs proves Moore's Law by "radically increasing the number of transistors packed onto the chip." When the first microprocessor was invented in 1971, the three Intel founders had the vision that by the year 2000 a CPU could be buil t which is able to perform two billion instructions per second (2000 MIPS). With the Pentium and its successors (the P6 and the P7 - expected to reach 250 MIPS in 1997), which Intel already works on, the ambitious goal of 1971 has come within reach.

The present line width on a chip is as tiny as 0.6 micron( ) - that is roughly 1/200th the width of a human hair. The next generation will be 0.4 , and in 2000 a width of only 0.25 is expected to be reached. This is already the world of quantum physics.

Intel's dominance in the microprocessor world is stronger than ever. With an installed base of about 135 million PCs in the world, Intel's CPUs power 90 percent of them.

However, CPU's are not Intel's only products. Intel also ships microprocessor peripherals (specific-purpose chips that support the CPU in a PC) and PC enhancement products (boards, components, and software to enhance a computer's capabilities), as well as OEM modules and systems. Further, the company's product line comprises embedded control chips and microcontrollers, which perform specific functions in a variety of everyday use products such as home appliances, automobile engines or laser printers, etc.)

Concerning Intel's memory chips, the company focused on the new flash technology, invented by Japanese company Toshiba in 1988, and took the leadership position. Flash memory offers the "non-volatility of EPROMs" but can be erased much more easily (simply by electric current). The new technology is expected to displace the EPROMs in embedded systems, and to be used in portable computer systems. The potential for flash memory is so significant that Intel has phased out the EPROM business in 1990 in favor of flash.

Moreover, Intel constructs parallel supercomputers consisting of thousands of microprocessors working together. In 1992, Intel has shipped one of the world's most powerful supercomputers, the Intel Paragon X/PS.

Another focus is on multimedia and interactive communications products (Indeo video technology and DVI multimedia hardware). It is in this field - the mergence of the computer and communications industry - that Intel sees a big market in the future.)

Intel has expanded rapidly since the crisis in 1986 when net revenues remained stagnant at about $1.3 billion. In 1992, the company's net revenues increased by 22% up to $5.83 billion and the net income topped $1 billion for the first time. In the same yea r, Intel was the world's largest semiconductor manufacturer - up from number 10 in 1987.)

This growth continued in 1993, when the company's net revenues jumped by 50 percent to $8.78 billion and the net income increased even more sharply reaching a total of $2.3 billion (plus 115%).)

Intel's success is due to a continuous progress in R&D of new technologies and to refining on its manufacturing methods. The company is looked upon as "the last great hope of American industry against the onslaught of the Japanese electronics industry.") Robert Noyce, the legendary inventor and most famous of the three founders, was the "face of Intel." The heart of the company, though, resides with Gordon Moore, who is a brilliant engineer and a broadly respected scientist. And Andy Grove represents the t hird key factor at Intel, since he keeps Intel going and has the "steeliness, needed to "slash away" anything that is "hindering the progress of the company.")

Intel is seen as the architect of the microcomputer revolution for which it provided the basic components - memory chips and microprocessors. Its first CPU's made other semiconductors manufactures such as Motorola and Texas Instruments enter this market, t oo.

Martin Groeger http://www.silicon-valley-story.de
Last modified: Mon Jul 8 05:34:11 PDT