by Anton Shilov
05/01/2009 | 12:45 PM
On the 1st of May, 1969, seven ex-Fairchild employees, including Jerry Sanders, Ed Turney, John Carey, Sven Simonsen, Jack Gifford, Frank Botte, Jim Giles and Larry Stenger founded Advanced Micro Devices. Initially a manufacturer of random access memory, simplistic logic chips and clones of Intel Corp.’s microprocessors, AMD is now the company that ships innovative central processing units, core-logic sets and graphics processors.
AMD started with basic logic chips as well as RAM, but in 1982 International Business Machines demanded ensure second source for x86 processors developed by Intel and the chip designer signed an agreement that allowed AMD to produce clones of Intel’s processors. As time went by, more manufacturers entered the market of x86 microprocessors and all of them, including AMD and Intel, competed fiercely against each other. Since AMD did not only produce clones of Intel’s chips, but improved them, at some point it became a strong competitor for Intel and the latter refused to provide its smaller rival designs of its processors, opening the door to a new era for AMD.
In March, 1996, AMD introduced its first in-house designed x86 microprocessor named K5. But although the chip named after Kryptonite (the only substance that could kill Superman from the series of motion pictures), it was not commercially successful. Its descendants, the K6 family of microprocessors, offered much higher performance and competed much more successfully against Intel. However, the real success of AMD was the introduction of AMD Athlon central processing units in 1999, which development was led by Derrick Meyer – chief executive officer of AMD today. The Athlon, which turns 10 in August ’09, did not only outperform chips from Intel, but, most importantly, demonstrated AMD’s actual ability to compete against the world’s largest chipmaker.
With the introduction of x86 64-bit extensions as well as AMD Opteron/Athlon 64 processors for servers in 2003, Advanced Micro Devices entered the market of enterprise computers as well as – for the first time – became de facto technology leader: Intel only followed AMD with x86-64 extensions in 2005.
The multi-core era that started in 2005 also allowed AMD to demonstrate its expertise in chip design: AMD’s dual-core chips quickly became very popular and quad-core processors, although hit by massive delays, became the world’s first monolithic quad-core chips. Thanks to improved execution, AMD is showing off its twelve-core chips now and is likely to be the first company to introduce twelve-core processors in 2010, something that further shows transformations of AMD.
Further converting itself into a supplier of various computing solutions, in 2006 AMD acquired ATI Technologies with an aim to converge central processing units with graphics processing units. Eventually, however, the acquisition forced AMD to spin-off its manufacturing facilities into Globalfoundries joint-venture.
Quite a lot has happened with AMD in its first 40 years, but there is a lot of work to do in its next 40 years as the world and technology continue their transformation.