If you’re working on a PC today, there’s a good chance it’s using a chip that can trace its roots back to the Intel 8088 processor. That chip was launched. 44 years ago today on June 1, 1979. However, its real impact on the PC industry will have to wait a while.
First, let’s look at the hardware specs of the Intel 8088, Through the company’s own website.
- Clock speed – 8 MHz, 4.77 MHz
- The making process – 3 microns
- Number of transistors – 29,000
- Addressable memory – 64 kb
- The speed of the bus – 8 MHz, 4.77 MHz
The Intel 8088 is actually a slightly different version of the Intel 8086, which was launched a year earlier in June 1978. Both chips had 16-bit registers. The main difference between the two CPUs is that while the 8086 had a 16-bit data bus, the 8088 only had an 8-bit data bus. This small difference would later be the key to the widespread use of the 8088.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the personal computer industry was just beginning. Apple, Commodore, Tandy, and even video game console maker Atari were releasing their own PC models. IBM, previously known for large mainframe computers for large corporations, decided to enter this new market and launch a PC of its own.
In designing its first PC entirely in-house, as it had done with its previous computers, IBM approached third parties to help build its first PC product. The reasoning was that IBM could put together a PC faster and put it on the market faster if it did everything in-house. IBM’s site stated:
They went to Microsoft for the operating system (QDOS, renamed PC-DOS and later sold by Microsoft as MS-DOS) and to Intel for its 8088 processor. He chose an existing monitor from IBM Japan and a dot matrix printer from Epson. Only the keyboard and system unit were new IBM designs.
So why did IBM choose the Intel 8088 processor in its first PC? There is actually some debate on this topic. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said in a 1997 interview with PC Magazine that he and fellow co-founder Paul Allen actually pushed IBM to use 16-bit processors.
However, David Bradley, who helped build the first IBM PC for the company, tells a different story. In an article he wrote for Byte in 1990.. He gave four main reasons for choosing a processor like the Intel 8088.
1. 64K-byte address limit overcome. This requirement meant that we had to use a 16-bit microprocessor.
2. The processor and its peripherals had to be immediately available. There was no time to develop a new LSI chip, and manufacturing lead times meant that quantities had to be available immediately.
3. We could not afford a long learning period; We had to use technology that we were familiar with. And we needed a rich set of support chips—we wanted a system with a DMA controller, an interrupt controller, timers, and parallel ports.
4. Both an operating system and applications software must be available to the processor.
So why did IBM finally pick the 8088 over the 8086? Bradley said the final choice was for a familiar reason: It helped make the PC cheaper:
We chose the 8088 because of its 8-bit data bus. The minibus saved money in the areas of RAM, ROM, and logic for a simple system.
The first IBM PC launched on August 12, 1981 with a price tag of $1,565. It quickly became a sales success and led not only to more models of the IBM PC, but also to PCs made by other companies that were clones of the IBM product. All of them used versions of Intel’s x86 chip line.
Today, the 13th Gen Intel Core processors that the company currently sells can trace their roots back to that original 8088 model. The company is currently preparing for early development of its next chip architecture, Meteor Lake, and this 64-bit only CPU. It tried to move away from this x86 architecture with its server theme. 64-bit chip Itaniumin the 2000s but it failed to make a significant impact.
However, future Intel chips will also owe a debt to the Intel 8088 that was launched 44 years ago.