Intel IA

By Jim Turley  |  Posted 2002-02-11 Print this article Print

-64 & Itanium"> Intels IA-64 (née Tahoe) architecture had a gestation period longer than that of an elephant. After first announcing their cooperation in 1994, Hewlett Packard and Intel said the first offspring of their matrimony would arrive "not before 1998," a prognostication that certainly proved to be true. In reality, the design was even longer in the making, for Intel and HP had stealthily begun working well before their mid-94 announcement. Ten years and 325 million transistors later, we behold Itanium (all the good names were taken). Originally code-named Merced, Itanium is the first-born of the IA-64 family and our first real look into how well IA-64 will--or wont--work. (The subsequent offspring code-named McKinley, Madison, and Deerfield, are covered later in this article.) First and most obviously, Itanium, like all IA-64 processors, is not an x86 chip. It is a clean break from the long and legendary x86 (or IA-32, in Intel parlance) architecture that Intel invented, seemingly back when Earth was still cooling, and which propelled the Santa Clara company to such heights. Yes, Itanium is able to run x86 code in backward-compatibility mode, but that compatibility is tacked on; in its element, Itanium and all IA-64 chips are nothing at all like Pentium.
Thats both good news and bad news, as we shall see. Its good to be free from the tyranny of the x86 architecture, considered by many programmers to be the worst 8-bit, 16-bit, or 32-bit (take your pick) CPU family ever developed. That it should have succeeded so spectacularly is enough to shake ones faith in divine forces. The bad news? IA-64 leaves behind everything that made x86 chips ubiquitous, and presumably replaces it all with new bugs, new quirks, and new head-scratchers, leaving us to wonder, "why the hell did they design it that way?"

Jim Turley is a semiconductor industry analyst, editor, and presenter working in Silicon Valley. Focus technologies are 32-bit microprocessors and semiconductor intellectual property (SIP).

Most recently Jim was the Senior Vice President of Strategy & Technology at ARC International plc (LSE:ARK), where he set the Company's strategic direction and guided its technical developments at five locations worldwide. With headquarters in London (UK) and development centers in New Hampshire, Canada, and California, ARC International is an innovative leader in the semiconductor IP (intellectual property) industry.

Previously, Jim was senior analyst for MicroDesign Resources (a unit of Cahners/Reed Elsevier) as well as the Senior Editor of the prestigious industry journal Microprocessor Report (a three-time winner of the Computer Press Award), and Editor-in-Chief of Embedded Processor Watch. He also hosted and directed the yearly Embedded Processor Forum conference, the industry's annual showcase for new microprocessors. As an analyst and editor, Turley consulting with leading semiconductor firms, providing informed advice on technology trends and market requirements, and was often called on to participate in new product reviews, strategy sessions, and technology development for large semiconductor companies.

Turley is the author of six popular books including Advanced 80386 Programming Techniques, the best-selling PCs Made Easy and others published by McGraw-Hill and Academic Press. He's served as technical editor for several of McGraw-Hill's computer and programming books. In addition, he was a regular technology columnist for Embedded System Programming, Computer Design, and Supermicro magazines, and contributed articles to dozens more. Earlier in his career, Turley held engineering or marketing positions at Adept Technology, Force Computers, TeleVideo, and other high-technology firms in Europe and the United States.

Turley has created and presented numerous seminars and training sessions around the world covering technology trends and the competitive microprocessor market. He is also a well-known speaker at industry events such as the Embedded Systems Conference and Microprocessor Forum, is frequently quoted in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, and San Jose Mercury News, and has appeared frequently on television, radio, and Internet broadcasts. Jim volunteers for Recording for the Blind and recently earned his amateur auto-racing license. He has a talented and stunningly attractive wife, two overachieving children, an apparently brain-damaged dog, and an opossum living under the house.

Jim can be contacted at or by calling (408) 226-8086.

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