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Since Intel introduced the 4004 microprocessor nearly 40 years ago, the company has grown into the world's largest processor maker with a monopoly in the desktop and an overwhelming presence in servers and supercomputers.
Starting with the 8086 — the chip IBM chose for its 1981 industry-defining PC — Intel has defined the industry. Such a target has attracted a lot of fiesty competition, large and small. These are their stories, from hopeful start to inevitable failure.
First up is National Semiconductor, which had a few bites at the processor market. The first was in the mid-1970s with the spectacularly slow SC/MP 8-bit processor (above), popular with hobbyists and nobody else.
In the late '70s, Nat Semi launched what may be the first 32-bit processor — the 16032, later renamed the 32016. It was used in a couple of spectacularly unsuccessful Acorn products: a BBC Micro second processor and the Acorn Cambridge Workstation. Complex, unreliable and unpopular, it eventually transmuted to an embedded processor and quietly vanished.
In the late 1990s, Nat Semi bought fellow chipmaker Cyrix and produced the Geode low-power x86 part, then lost huge amounts of money and sold Cyrix to Via just before 2000. It kept the Geode until 2003, when it sold it to AMD.
Photo credit: Yellowcloud