Advanced Micro Devices

AMD is quite possibly the world's best desktop processor design and manufacturer. AMD currently produces two main products, along with a myriad of other smaller devices. AMD's two biggest products are flash memory (with NOR technology) and desktop processors (Athlon, Duron), which compete rigorously with many companies including Intel, its main rival. 33 years old, AMD is not quite the newcomer to the semiconductor arena that people often think it is. AMD now operates world wide with global sales, offices, and plants nearly everywhere, including America, Asia, and Europe.

Company History

Fairchild Semiconductor, for whatever reason, provided many current day semiconductor companies with the brilliant employees that created their existence. AMD is no different. In 1969, Jerry Sanders left Fairchild Semiconductor to spearhead the risky new startup, AMD. Jerry found himself the team lead of seven talented employees creating various electronic devices for customers at an improved quality out of an employee's living room. This is a remarkable feat, especially when you consider that many of the original eight in this startup had marketing backgrounds (including Jerry) instead of technical backgrounds.

AMD showed drastic growth initially in a harsh and sometimes overcrowded market. In November of 1969, AMD had its first silicon release of a 4-bit Shift Register yet by May of 1970, it still hadn't seen a sale. Despite this initial struggle, by 1974 AMD had an astonishing $26.5 million dollars in sales. Currently (2002) lead by CEO Hector Ruiz, the companies spirit can be represented by the willful and strong character of Mr. Ruiz who used to cross the Mexican border everyday by foot to go to school.

Processor History

AMD microprocessors support the x86 ISA that most desktop computers run, including those made by Intel, Transmeta, and Cyrix. AMD has always offered better value processors compared to the market segment leader and targets their product toward performance. Unlike Intel, who has often sacrificed performance for market share or sales, AMD usually caters to high-end CPU users.

   1991 -- AMD's virgin CPU. This processor, developed by AMD with help from various acquisitions succeeded in breaking the Intel monopoly despite vigorous lawsuits from Intel.

   1991 -- This processor competed well against the Intel brand rival (486), yet AMD was still a newcomer to the market and their corresponding market share was small. Word was out about the soon-to-be-released Pentium processor and AMD had to keep up.

   1993 -- This processor was never viewed well by the public, mainly due to its late release at 100Mhz while the Pentium was at 166Mhz (A huge difference in those days). It was AMD's first superscalar chip design and the complexity proved very difficult. The K5 had some heat problems, which it never recovered from. This CPU was quickly discontinued and AMD focused its efforts on the up and coming K6 processor.

   1997 -- The notable processor of AMD's history. The K6 put AMD on the map for everyday computer purchases. For the first time ever, AMD briefly held the title of worlds fastest desktop CPU. The K6 was built from the NexGen 686 core through an acquisition and let AMD make huge advances from the K5. This processor even supported Intel's MMX extensions, allowing it to run the latest optimized programs.

   1998 -- The second version of the K6, the K6-2 offered the new 3DNow! instruction extensions as well as a new 100Mhz FSB. This processor was released at higher and higher Mhz, allowing AMD to continue to gain market share on Intel. This processor was marketed as a budget or value processor, offering very competitive performance at much lower prices.

   1999 -- The K6-3 was another improvement on the original K6 core. AMD was now able to put the L2 Cache on die, making it much faster and closer to the CPU. It enabled AMD to continue following Moore's Law by running at faster and faster speeds. The K6-3 did not have a long lifetime before AMD introduced their much anticipated 7th generation architecture, the Athlon.

   1999 -- Intel has always had the fastest microprocessor around, until now. Recent acquisitions of outstanding Alpha designers from Compaq, and many design improvements over the K6-2, allowed AMD to create the superior performing Athlon. The Athlon had architectural improvements very significant in the Floating Point Unit and with the Alpha EV6 bus.

Athlon XP
   2001 -- This processor was released with a whole new marketing strategy in mind: Performance matters more than Megahertz. The Athlon XP supported full SSE extensions as well as lowered power consumption and other core architecture improvements. The Athlon XP quite often out performed Intel's best chip. This caused Intel to release the P4, at much higher clock speeds but with lower performance. The result was the PR rating that AMD adopted to rate processors by something other than just their clock speed, which isn't necessarily equal to their performance.

   2003 -- This processor will be AMD's first foray into the server market of microprocessors. Codenamed Sledgehammer or Hammer within AMD, the Opteron will support AMD's first ever 64-bit extensions on the 32 bit x86 ISA. This will allow Opteron to support legacy applications (a crucial capability for large corporations) while enabling new 64 bit programs. The Opteron, as well as the next generation AMD core, will have several architectural upgrades. On die DDR Memory Controller, instead of on the FSB chipset, and HyperTransport technology are the two major improvements over the 7th generation architecture in the Athlon.

Athlon 64
   2003/04 -- This is the desktop version of Opteron also running AMD's x86-64 ISA.

Company Facts

One AMD Place
P.O. Box 3453
Sunnyvale CA 94088

2001 Revenue: $3.9 billion
Total Assets: $5.6 billion
Number of Employees: More than 14,000
Stock Symbol: NYSE: AMD
Logo: The initials AMD is an acronym for Advanced Micro Devices. The arrow icon symbolizes the AMD principle of growth in the right direction.

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