Happy 40th Birthday AMD: 4 Ways You Beat Intel in the Glory Days

Happy 40th Birthday AMD: 4 Ways You Beat Intel in the Glory Days

AMD, the other chip company, is 40 years old today. It’s the scrappy underdog to the Intel juggernaut. Today, it’s not in great shape, but at one point, it was actually beating Intel on innovation.

AMD tried to kill the megahertz myth before Intel. During the Pentium 4 days Intel kept pushing clock speeds higher and higher, before it hit a wall and abandoned the Prescott architecture. The message was clearly, “more megahertz is more better.” AMD’s competing Athlon XP chips, while clocked slower, often beat their Pentium 4 rivals. Ironically, AMD was the first to 1GHz, as some commenters have pointed out (don’t know how I forgot that). Obviously though, AMD’s performance lead didn’t last forever.

AMD beat Intel to 64-bit in mainstream computers. And we’re not just talking about its Opteron and Athlon 64 processors. AMD actually designed the X86-64 specification, which Intel wound up adopting and licensing—so AMD’s spec is used in Intel’s 64-bit processors to this day.

AMD was first to consider energy efficiency in processor designs. Okay, this is kind of an extension of point number one, but during Intel’s Pentium 4 ‘roid rage period AMD’s processors consistently used less power than Intel’s. Intel’s performance per watt revelation didn’t really start until the Pentium M (which was actually a throwback to the P6 architecture), which set the tone for Intel’s new direction in its successor, the Core line of chips.

AMD beat Intel to having an integrated memory controller. A tech feature AMD lorded over Intel for years: AMD’s processors started integrating the memory controller with its processors years ago, reducing memory latency. Intel’s first chip to use an integrated memory controller is the Core i7—before, the memory controller was separate from the processor. (Here’s why Intel says they held off.)

Athlon XP and Athlon 64—those were the good old days, AMD’s cutthroat competitive days. The days they were ahead of Intel. I miss them—at one point, every hand-built computer in my house ran AMD processors. I felt like a rebel—a rebel with faster, cheaper computers.

Unfortunately, I don’t run AMD chips anymore. Intel came back, and came back hard. But here’s hoping for another resurgence, and another 40 years, guys. Share your favourite AMD memories in the comments.