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Door Robin Vreuls


Prescott: the answer to AMD's Hammer?


Intel secretIn the last few months, computer related articles that didn't speak of Hammer, the so called revolutionary new CPU from AMD, were rare. Boasting 64bit instructions and HyperTransport, the new chip will make the Pentium a thing of the past, so it's said... There could be no greater mistake. Intel has more tricks up it's sleeve than a pokerplayer in a classic western movie; it's just that they've never been good at creating hypes. We hereby invite you to read this editorial, and meet: Prescott.

* The power of PR

Processors come and go fast, much faster than several years ago. Can you remember the Pentium 200MHz's time at the top? Or the Pentium II 450MHz? In the 'old days' there'd be a new CPU every six months. Nowadays, you are lucky if you brand new state-of-the art processor isn't considered crap two months later.

It's all caused by the competition which formed in 1994, when Intel decided other manufacturers couldn't longer copy their designs and started using the name 'Pentium', the sudden change came as a hard blow for many companies depending on Intel-clones. One of those companies was AMD. However, unlike many others, AMD decided not to watch passively, but to fight back. Their technicians explored the outer limits of the 486 core while others worked on a new design to compete with Intel's new brand of CPU's. The result was called K5, who, like its successor K6, never became well known. Everybody wanted a Pentium, you know, the one from TV, with the funny tune. Pentium crushed everything that stood in its way, and the word 'Pentium' at some point meant the same as 'computer'.

But now I've got one... Dutch commercial for Laser computers

While AMD gathered more and more knowledge, partly by experience and hiring other companies' designers, they started to plan a surprise attack. Ex-Alpha designer Dirk Meyer was hired by AMD for a very ambitious project: to launch the seventh generation of AMD's CPU's before Intel could release its counterpart. Not many believed the rumours to be true, but at the end of 1999 the impossible happened; Pentium III was slain by K7, while the Pentium 4 was miles away. To make things worse for Intel, AMD mastered the tricks of public relations. K7 was called Athlon and AMD quikly gathered support. Especially Tweakers were very happy with the Athlon's overclocking potential. Although that's only a very small group, many of these held positions in which they could advise others. The word spread quikly, Pentium finally had a real competitor.

In the two years that followed, Intel suffered from a lot of bad luck. The market for semiconductors crashed and the space that remained, for the once-so-glorious company, was taken by AMD. AMD beated Intel at the race for the 1GHz processor. The Pentium 4, who was to turn the tide, was troubled by a messy contract with Rambus. The Pentium 4 core had to endure a lot of negative publicity, mainly because it couldn't show its full potential. AMD however, was racing upward. The company opened a new factory, to keep up with the growing demand, while its CPU's appeared not to have any kind of trouble keeping up with Intel's. AMD's PR-section re-introduced the PR-rating-system to convince everybody of Athlon's power. AMD became more popular with every day that passed and nowadays people are still convinced AMD is winning the CPU-race.

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