Forty Years Of x86
Compared to the 16-bit 8086, Intel's Core i7-8086K represents a quantum leap in technology. Whereas a modern CPU can spend four years in the design process, Intel brought its 8086 to market in just 18 months. Stephen Morse, then 36 years old, was the lead architect. The 8086 was originally designed to be a filler product before Intel released the 8800, but Morse designed it to be the first in a line of chips that shared a common architecture to ensure forward compatibility.
|Product||Intel 8086||Core i7-8086K||Core i7-8700K|
|Release Date||June 8, 1978||June 8, 2018||October 5, 2017|
|TDP||1W (power draw)||95W||95W|
|Cores / Threads||1 / 1||6 / 12||6 / 12|
|Frequency Base / Boost||5 - 10 MHz (0.005 GHz)||4.0 / 5.0 GHz||3.7 / 4.7 GHz|
|Transistors||29,000||~3 billion||~3 billion|
|Manufacturing Process||nMOS/HMOS 3 micron (3000nm)||CMOS 14nm++||CMOS 14nm++|
|Lithography||G-Line (Mercury Arc Lamps) 436nm Wavelength||Argon Fluoride Excismer Laser, 193nm Wavelength||Argon Fluoride Excismer Laser, 193nm Wavelength|
|Minimum Feature Size||3.2 Microns (3200nm)||8nm||8nm|
|Wafer Diameter||4 inches||12 inches||12 inches|
|Memory Bus Speed||4.77 MHz||2966 MHz||2966 MHz|
|Integrated Graphics||None||UHD Graphics 630||UHD Graphics 630|
|Socket||40-pin||LGA 1151v2||LGA 1151v2|
|Price||$86.65 (1978) $330 adjusted for inflation||$425||$359|
And thus, the x86 instruction set architecture was born. Over the course of 40 years, Intel continually enhanced the x86 ISA, adding more than 3500 new instructions like MMX, SSE, TSX, and three flavors of AVX, among many others. Amazingly, the 64-bit Core i7-8086K is capable of running original 16-bit 8086 code. That's a testament to the x86 instruction set's longevity.
The original 8086 was fabbed on a 3200nm nMOS process using mercury arc lamps. Meanwhile, 40 years later, Intel is on its third-gen 14nm CMOS process that's manufactured with argon fluoride exerciser lasers.
Transistor measurements are no longer based strictly on feature sizes, but we can derive some basic comparative metrics. Die sizes have increased from the 8086's 33mm2 to the -8086K's 149mm2, and transistor counts are up from 29,000 to ~3,000,000,000 per processor, respectively. That means the original 8086 featured 879 transistors per square millimeter, while Core i7-8086K comes with 20,134,228 transistors per square millimeter for an astounding 22,905x density increase.
Interfaces have also changed as Intel added more cores, cache, new buses, expanded memory support, and on-die graphics. The original 8086 dropped into a 40-pin quasi-PGA interface, whereas the eighth-generation Core processors employ an LGA 1151v2 socket that boasts 1151 pins. If we widen the scope to Intel's 28-core enterprise behemoths, some interfaces pack a whopping 4637 pins.
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