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Can the x86 Just Keep Going?

x86 Survives Repeated Attempts At Retirement

  • October 5, 2009
  • By Andy Patrizio

In an industry known for its planned obsolescence, few technologies have lasted three decades and continue to grow more powerful with each passing year. The few that are out there, like DRAM and Motorola's 68000 processor, are chip-based.

Add to that list the x86 architecture, which stands alone in the broader computer market now that Sun Microsystems' Sparc processor is on life support. There have been many attempts to knock off the x86, from Sparc to HP's PA-RISC to SGI's MIPS to DEC's Alpha. But resistance proved futile; many PA-RISC and Alpha engineers now work for Intel on the Itanium, which was also supposed to retire x86. Intel's only real competitor any more is another x86 company, AMD.

Meanwhile, the x86 keeps humming along; it now powers everything from the fastest supercomputers on Earth down to handheld music and Internet devices and PCs and servers in between. Soon it will be in phones. Name another architecture that spans eight-core processors to smart phones.

Still, Intel itself has tried to put the x86 out to pasture more than once and couldn't do it. There was the iAPX-432 in the 1980s, the i860 in the early 1990s and then Itanium.

"If you were going to bet on an architecture that would be around in 20 years, which would you pick?"

Read the rest at InternetNews.com.

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