[rescue] Compaq Proliant 8000

Charles Shannon Hendrix shannon at widomaker.com
Thu Apr 29 15:36:01 CDT 2004

Thu, 29 Apr 2004 @ 14:41 -0400, Dave McGuire said:

>   I just have a hard time looking at at product which sold huge numbers 
> of units and saying it "failed".

Me too, but you are basically saying it didn't fail in terms of sales.
The industry found a niche for the i860 that it fits nicely.

I think the i860 was a technical failure because:

* interrupt handling was not good
* compilers took too long before they could produce decent code
* it was not easy to program in assembler either
* interrupts usually flushed several pipelines, leaving the CPU
  basically idle for what amounts to an eternity in CPU time
  for most interrupts.  The interrupt rate of the average modern
  desktop system would absolutely kill an i860.

I think it's success in the embedded market was because that was all it
was really good at.  That environment makes it easier to overcome its

If I build a jet engine specifically for power generation, and it can't
do that, it is a failure.  If I sell a million of them as a space
heater... that doesn't mean it was a success.  That's just me being
creating in recovering my R&D expenses.

> Perhaps this is just a matter of the redefinition of the term "failed"
> to mean "didn't replace x86"...which it wasn't designed to do in the
> first place!

When I was in college, and in my first job after college, Intel reps
came to talk to us.  In college, they specifically pushed i860 as an x86
alternative.  The literature also said "80960" which kind of emphasized
the point.  They were talking about how the i860 was the first of a new

Two years later that message was markedly toned down.  The focus was on
things like vector processors, add-on vector and specialized processors,

I asked an Intel rep specifically about x86 versus i860, and he said the
focus had changed.

That indicates to me that Intel *did* see the i860 as a possible
replacement of x86.  

To me, the i960 made more sense in that role, but I think internal
politics drove what happened with regard to i860, i960, and x86.

shannon "AT" widomaker.com -- ["The trade of governing has always been
monopolized by the most ignorant and the most rascally individuals of
mankind.  -- Thomas Paine"]

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