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Intel's 15 Most Unforgettable x86 CPUs

1. 8086: The First PC processor

The 8086 was the first x86 processorIntel had already released the 4004, the 8008, the 8080 and the 8085. This 16-bit processor could manage 1 MB of memory using an external 20-bit address bus. The clock frequency chosen by IBM (4.77 MHz) was fairly low, though the processor was running at 10 MHz by the end of its career.

The first PCs used a derivative of this processor, the 8088, which had only an 8-bit (external) data bus. An interesting aside is that the control systems in the US space shuttles use 8086 processors and NASA was forced to buy some from eBay in 2002 since Intel could no longer supply them.

Intel 8086 Code name N/A Date released 1979 Architecture 16 bits Data bus 16 bits Address bus 20 bits Maximum memory 1 MB L1 cache no L2 cache no Clock frequency 4.77-10 MHz FSB same as clock frequency FPU 8087 SIMD no Fabrication process 3,000 nm Number of transistors29,000 Power consumption N/A Voltage 5V Die surface area 16 mm Connector 40-pin
2. 80286: 16 MB Of Memory, But Still 16 Bits

Released in 1982, the 80286 was 3.6 times faster than the 8086 at the same frequency. It could manage up to 16 MB of memory, but the 286 was still a 16-bit processor. It was the first x86 equipped with a memory management unit (MMU), allowing it to manage virtual memory. Like the 8086, it did not have a floating-point unit (FPU), but could use a x87 coprocessor chip (80287). Intel offered these processors at a maximum frequency of 12.5 MHz, whereas their competitors reached 25 MHz.

Intel 80286 Code name N/A Date released 1982 Architecture 16 bits Data bus 16 bits Address bus 24 bits Maximum memory 16 MB L1 cache No L2 cache No Clock frequency 612 MHz FSB same as clock frequency FPU 80287 SIMD No Fabrication process 1,500 nm Number of transistors134,000 Power consumption N/A Voltage 5V Die surface area 49 mm Connector 68-pin
3. 386: 32-Bit and Cache Memory

Intels 80836 was the first x86 with a 32-bit architecture. Several versions of this processor were offered. The two best known are the 386 SX (Single-word eXternal), which had a 16bit data bus, and the 386 DX (Double-word eXternal) with a 32-bit data bus. Two other versions are worth noting, though: the SL, which was the first x86 to offer management of a cache (external) and the 386EX, used in the space program (the Hubble telescope uses this processor).

Intel 80386 DX Code name Date released Architecture Data bus Address bus Maximum memory L1 cache L2 cache Clock frequency FSB FPU SIMD Fabrication process

P3 1985 32 bits 32 bits 32 bits 4096 MB 0 KB (controller sometimes present) no 16-33 MHz same as clock frequency 80387 no 1,500-1,000 nm

Number of transistors275,000 Power consumption 2 W @ 33 MHz Voltage 5V Die surface area 42 mm @ 1 Connector 132 pins
4. The 486: An FPU And Multipliers Too

The 486 is emblematic of a certain generation who were first discovering computers. In fact, the very famous 486 DX2/66 was long considered the minimum configuration for gamers. This processor, released in 1989, ushered in several interesting new features, like an onchip FPU, data cache, and the first clock multiplier. The former consisted of an x87 coprocessor built into the 486 DX (not SX) series. An 8 KB Level 1 cache was built into the processor (write-through type, then write-back with slightly better performance). There was also the possibility of a Level 2 cache on the motherboard (at the bus frequency).

The second generation of 486s had a CPU multiplier, since the processor operated faster than the FSB, with DX2 (2x multiplier) and DX4 (3x multiplier) versions. Another anecdote: the 487SX sold as an FPU for the 486SX was actually a full 486DX that disabled and took the place of the first processor.

Intel 80486 DX Code name P4, P24, P24C Date released 1989 Architecture 32 bits Data bus 32 bits Address bus 32 bits Maximum memory 4096 MB L1 cache 8 KB L2 cache Motherboard (FSB frequency) Clock frequency 16-100 MHz FSB 16-50 MHz FPU On chip SIMD No Fabrication process 1,000800 nm Number of transistors1,185,000

Power consumption Voltage Die surface area Connector

N/A 5 V3.3 V 81 - 67 mm 168 pins

The DX4 had a 16 KB cache and a few more transistors: 1.6 million. This processor, using a 600 nm process and measuring 76 mm, consumed less power than the original 486 (at a voltage of 3.3 V).