Five years ago: Intel 's MMX is finally out

After several months of industry chit-chat and speculation Intel finally pushed its MMX technology into the spotlight

First published 8 January, 1997

The chip giant unveiled what it officially calls the Pentium Processor with MMX Technology in 166MHz and 200MHz versions for desktop PCs, and 150MHz and 166MHz flavours for portables. Desktop systems will initially be aimed at home users, Intel said. The MMX set of 57 instructions delivers a performance hike of over 60 per cent on optimised applications, according to Intel, resulting in faster frame rates for motion video and speedier image rendering, for example.

The desktop Pentium MMX has an internal voltage of 2.8V and the notebook version operates at 2.45V. All MMX chips are manufactured on a 0.35micron process at Intel's main fabrication plants. In 1,000-unit quantities, the 166MHz and 200MHZ Pentium MMX processors cost $407 and $550 respectively, with the 150MHz and 166MHz notebook chips pegged at $443 and $550.

A large number of vendors, including Compaq, Dell, IBM and Packard Bell NEC, greeted the chip by unveiling systems housing the part with availability due from the middle of this month.

A vast array of software developers are also writing software optimised for the MMX instruction set, although only about six titles are currently available, including Dorling Kindersley's Ultimate Human Body 2, and Maris Space Station Simulator. Over 1,000 titles for MMX will be available by the end of the year, according to Intel.

Intel plans to release an MMX-enhanced OverDrive processor to upgrade traditional Pentiums this year, said Ian Wilson, Intel's European technical manager. However, Wilson insisted the orthodox Pentium still has a role: "There is a market for Intel Pentiums and Intel Pentiums with MMX. All software will see an increase in performance."

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