Tag Archives | Intel

Before PCs, There Were Digital Watches

This is my new watch. If you ever owned a Commodore 64 or an Amiga, you recognize that insignia below the display: It belongs to Commodore, the company that sold vast quantities of personal computers in the 1980s before petering out in the early 1990s.

My new watch is also an old watch: It’s a Commodore Time Master, manufactured in 1976 or thereabouts. I bought it from a specialist called LED Watch Stop, which has a supply of new-old-stock Time Masters that never got sold back in the 1970s. (It’s selling them for $229 apiece at the moment, although the price was $129 just a few days ago–I guess I lucked into a sale when I impulsively ordered one.)

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Forty Years of Intel Inside

On November 15th 1971, Intel introduced the 4004–the world’s first single-chip microprocessor. The 4-bit chip was a breakthrough, but it didn’t change the world instantly. In fact, some of the first products with Intel Inside–including a pinball machine, an electronic voting machine, and Wang’s first word processor–didn’t make much of an impact at all. Benj Edwards is celebrating the anniversary with an illustrated look back at this landmark component and some of the 1970s innovations it made possible.

View “4004!” slideshow.

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4-bit. 2300 transistors. 740 kHz.

On November 15th, 1971–forty years ago this Tuesday–Intel publicly unveiled the world’s first single-chip microprocessor, the 4004. It was a modest start to what would become a grand silicon empire led by Intel. So modest, in fact, that many would quickly forget the 4004 as Intel churned out more powerful chips throughout the rest of the 1970s–the predecessors of the ones inside every current Windows PC and Mac.

Few commercial products used the 4004. Let’s rediscover seven of them, and learn about the chip’s history along the way.


Waiting for Thunderbolt

Over at Cnet, I wrote about a technology that I’m excited about, although it’s unclear whether any big players other than Intel and Apple are as enthusiastic as I am:  Thunderbolt.

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The Ultrabook Challenge

Ars Technica’s Peter Bright has a good piece on “Ultrabooks”–Intel’s planned MacBook Air rivals–and why it’s surprisingly hard for any company that’s not Apple to do thin and light right. I especially like his extended rant about how freakin’ hard it is to find the computer you want on “helpful” sites such as Dell.com:

Let’s start with Dell; I go to dell.com and search for a laptop. I want something like a 13″ MacBook Air, so I tick “11 to 14 inches” and “< 5 lbs,” Dell’s ultralight category. I get back three largely indistinguishable machines, ranging from $999 to $1359. What’s the difference between them all? I don’t know, they all look like variants of the “Alienware M11x.” It’s confusing and overwhelming, not helpful.

It’s even worse if I just browse without searching. The options I get are just… meaningless. Yes, I want “Everyday Computing,” so I want an Inspiron. But hang on, I also want “Design & Performance,” so I want an XPS. Wait a second, I want “Thin & Powerful,” too. So maybe I want a Z Series? But the only line that apparently matches my broad search criteria—lightweight, 11-14″—I wouldn’t even consider because I don’t want a “gaming” laptop, and so I’m never going to click Alienware!

Is this the best way to sell laptops? Create a bunch of categories with arbitrary, overlapping labels, and just hope that buyers manage to fight through the system to find something that isn’t wretched?



Please, Call Them Ultrabooks

Intel’s plan to revitalize the thin-and-light laptop has been out in the open for over a week, but now the company’s going a step further and giving this product category a new name: Ultrabooks. These computers will measure less than 0.8 inches thick and cost less than $1,000 when they hit the market later this year.

For now, I just want to talk about the name. It’s snappy, as far as jargon goes, but it also leaves me feeling cold. The tech industry is littered with marketing buzzwords for new kinds of computers, but not all of them stick, and as history shows, you just can’t force this kind of thing.

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Intel Will Bet Big on Ultra-Low Voltage Laptops

Laptops don’t make for the most exciting news these days, but I’m pleased to hear that Intel’s PC plans call for a big bet on ultra-low voltage processors, as Ars Technica reports.

Ultra-low voltage, or ULV, refers to a range of processors that are more powerful than Intel’s netbook-centric Atom while retaining excellent battery life and allowing for slim figures. (I’m typing on an ULV laptop now, an Asus UL80vt.)

These thin-and-light ULV laptops were pricey when Intel introduced them a couple years ago, and they quickly earned niche status instead of mainstream success. Still, they offer what a lot of people are looking for in a computer — moderate performance and strong battery life in a lightweight frame — and pricing has come down. The company has already launched low-voltage versions of its Core i3, i5 and i7 processors

So it makes sense for Intel to give ULV a bigger role in its lineup. Whereas the the power draw for Intel’s chips previously centered around 35 watts, the company plans to set the center point around 10 or 15 watts, with the goal of making 10-hour battery life a reality for most machines.

On a recent trip to Best Buy, I was surprised by how chunky most laptops look, even compared to my 18-month-old machine. If Intel and PC makers can deliver lots of ultra-thin ULV laptops in the coveted $600 price range, the dreary old laptop could start to look exciting once again.


How Big a Deal Will Thunderbolt Be?

The single most interesting thing about Apple’s new MacBook Pro models–by far–is their incorporation of Intel’s Thunderbolt (formerly code-named Light Peak), a new high-speed connection technology that has the potential to replace just about every other sort of computer connector. GigaOm’s Darrell Etherington does a good job of explaining why it’s not yet clear whether Thunderbolt will be a neat-but-nichey technology like FireWire or a truly universal connector that could someday replace USB.


Dell XPS Laptops Add Premium Audio, 3D Video, Sandy Bridge Processors

Dell's new XPS 15

Release dates for Dell’s refreshed XPS laptops have turned into a moving target, and all the specs haven’t been quite clear. Yet Dell on Tuesday suddenly announced immediate US availability for both the 15- and 17-inch models, along with a finalized feature set that now officially includes 3D video.

In a Dell press briefing session I attended during CES in January, Alison Gardner, a Dell product manager, sketched out new features for “AV enthusiasts”–such as JBL speakers and MAXXAudio 3–and for “immersive multimedia.”

Dell asked reporters to hold off on publishing stories about the new notebooks pending a formal announcement then slated for February 20. Yet Dell’s Lionel Menchaca detailed some preliminary specs–for the XPS 17 only–in a blog posted on Dell’s Web site, also during the week of CES.

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CES 2011: More Internet Video to Flow to TVs, PCs and Smartphones

Wednesday is Press Day here at CES, a day when major consumer electronics players like LG, Netgear and Intel traditionally make big announcements in advance of the full show that starts tomorrow. If there’s an underlying message here in Las Vegas so far, it’s that companies are getting the word that consumers want to view more content–whether Hollywood- or user-generated–from and over the Internet, on devices ranging from TVs to PCs and smartphones.

In delivering a roadmap of LG’s TV plans for 2011 today, Tim Alessi, LG’s director of new product development for home electronics, listed “more content to watch”  – together with connectivity to home networks and easier-to-use 3D TV – as the three key linchpins for the year ahead.

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