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Pentium 4 was a brand of Intel central processing units and the greatest, most ground-breaking technological innovation ever achieved in the early 21st century. Notwithstanding much scrutiny and despise from critics, the Pentium 4 line of microprocessors continuously dominated the CPU market between its first release in 2000 and its adjourning as useless masses of heat-emanating silicon in 2008.
The "Four Least Efforts" philosophy
Intel Pentium 4 Technology was inspired by Idiocrates through the ancient Greek philosophical thesis Ligotere Titraguna-Prospatheia (Four Least Efforts). As its name suggests, the thesis was focused at four different ways of exerting what the Greek philosopher deemed “the least effort”. Many scholars and even famous economists such as former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson agree that the principles found in the ancient thesis are still applicable to modern-day commercial environments. These principles include:
- The least designing effort: Technological products tend to exhibit short life-times in the market. In order to maximize the new product introduction rate of a super-sized corporation, one must reduce the input of effort as much as possible during the designing process. That is to say, one must recycle old designs as often as the laws of physics permit. Due to its unique NetBurst architecture, the Pentium 4 line of microprocessors is theoretically capable of delivering long increments of internal clock frequencies from 1.3GHz up to 10GHz with the only trade-off via the awkward lengthening of instruction pipelines that nullifies any realistic upscaling in performance. The life-cycle of the product line could also be extended via timely additions of side features such as the HyperThreading Technology, which provides the proper illusion of finesse and speed to both the operating system and the user.
- The least marketing effort: The least designing effort will succeed only when the least marketing effort is used. Indeed, as more effort is expended on promotion, more competitors will initiate hostile reactions. Thus, instead of wasting precious time advertising the excellence of a product (which, in this case, has null), one can simply seal off the entire market by means of air-tight, competitors-proof trading agreements, the introduction of fast-food like combos such as “Centrino”, and the much needed boasting of previous successes.
- The least self-checking effort: It is devastating but nonetheless awakening when you realise that your company is nothing more that one giant feat of mediocrity. Avoid self-awareness so to maintain the least effort in the previous two aspects. Relax and enjoy the pleasantness of keeping up with the status quo henceforth.
- The least managing effort: Needless to say, in order to achieve the previous three “least efforts”, one must allow employees to remain in the state of idleness as long as possible.
History of Pentium 4 Technology
The P4 naming fiasco
Jesse O'Brian was the manager (and only employee) of the Stationary Management Department located in the basement of Intel Corporation Headquarters, Santa Clara, California, USA. Besides his responsibility of distributing pencils to all Intel personnel within the facility, it was in a short notice that O'Brian was assigned to name the yet-to-be released successor of the Pentium III. Given the suddenness of the news and his acute lack of creativity and adequate knowledge of Roman numerals, he hastily added an extra "I" to "Pentium III", and submitted his answer, "Pentium IIII", to his superior, Paul Barret.
Barret was surprised by O'Brian's idea, and not realizing the fact that the new name was nothing more than a result of blatant shortness of originality, he took it to a contractor and asked to have it incorporated into the product's new orange-coloured logo. However, when the finished design was sent to a sub-contractor (i.e. printery), it was to be returned with a disastrous outcome: due to the closeness of the I's to each other and the nature of the required orange dye, the name "Pentium IIII" simply turned into "Pentium ██" when it came off the press.
Barret was disappointed. In desperation, he discarded O'Brian's new name for the product and came up with "Pentium A", which, as described in his memoir, meant "the A-class of the Pentium family"; due to growing distrust to the previous contractor, he simply sent the product name and the unfinished logo to yet another contractor of Intel in order to get the official release under way. However, when the name was passed on from internally to the logo designers, it was somewhat distorted and in place of "Pentium A", there was a weird combination of letters, numbers and symbols, "P3|\|7IU|V| 4". Befuddled, the designers went to the sender of the message and asked him to decipher the content. The sender, who had long forgotten the original name of the product he received from Barret, falsely responded with "Pentium 4". It was rumored that some time after the logo had been printed over and over again on millions of sheets of glossy stickers to be affixed to computers worldwide, Barret suffered from a serious stroke leaving the bottom half of his body paralysed.
The "patch-after-patch-after-patch" product life-cycle model
It was rumoured that when Barret was out searching for a new "least effort" idea, he spotted two renovation workers knocking moisture-damaged concrete off from a structure, revealing the steel rods inside. In response to Barret's curiosity, the workers told him that they were repairing the wears caused by the continual rusting of the steel reinforcement. At this point, he reportedly experienced sudden "clearness of mind" and began to reason that if a building is to be "patched" in such a way from time to time, likewise a CPU design should also be treated in the same manner. Therefore, he went off back to the Intel HQ and demanded that the P68 (the internal codename for Pentium 4) design was to be improved by merely increasing its clock speed, and if any problems came up (and they did), then one could only correct them by applying "a small patch", just as a renovation worker would only put the same amount of concrete that had fallen off of a building back to the damaged areas. The following is the actual chronology of the product life-cycle:
| Higher clock speed|
>> Longer pipeline
|The upscaling of clock speed comes with the side effect of ever-increasing instruction pipeline length. As a result, the Pentium 4 line of microprocessors went from 20 pipeline stages for the initial Willamette cores to the staggering 31 stages (or thrice as much as that of the latter Pentium III models) as found in the Prescott core. An aggressive scheduler was set in place to offset the resultant congestion via hurrying the queuing instructions through the pipelines. A replay system was also implemented to salvage unprocessed instructions so to maintain a reasonable system stability that a user would normally expect from a usable machine.|
| Longer pipeline |
|Due to the increasingly congested pipelines, the designers were forced to resort to a technique that Intel later called "HyperThreading(HT) Technology". Using a combination of hardware and software implementations, a single-cored Prescott CPU could now be seen logically as two from the perspective of the operating system. Although this allowed more threads to run simultaneously in one die, the presence of the replay system crippled the overall performance increase to 5% and thus made the idea a limited success.|
>> an extra layer of cache
|Given the failure of the HT Technology, Intel designers now had no choice but to seek ways to cut back the pipelines to 21 stages long. As a result, an extra layer of cache (L3) was added to the CPU die, and the product was released with the label "Pentium 4 Extreme Edition" so to absorb as many customers from the hardware enthusiast demographic as possible. A latter implementation of a 2MB L2 cache was also incorporated to the Prescott core (which was known as the Prescott 2M), pertaining the product line's extreme attitude of not caring a thing in the world.|
| an extra layer of cache|
>> one more core!!!
|Seeing no noticable success in any of the above tactics, Intel eventually resorted to adding one extra core to each Prescott-based CPU and renamed it "Pentium D" in an attempt to keep customers interested.|
| one more core|
>> 65nm semi-conductor process!!!
|The enormous heat dissipation of the 90nm Prescott design made the CPU die almost impossible to operate in a dual-core setting. With vast sums of money invested to the newly implemented photo-lithographic process, Intel proceeded to downsize the very same Prescott layout to the 65nm Cedar Mill and thus reduced the cooling requirements as demanded by the Smithfield Pentium D to an extend that was actually manageable in a typical environment.|
| 65nm semi-conductor process|
>> "We give up!!!"
|Despite the 9.6GHz long product life-cycle as promised with the NetBurst architecture, Intel was simply no match to the forces of nature and the scorching heat of Prescott. As the ultimate limit of photo-lithography loomed ever closer to Santa Clara, Intel had no choice but to announce their sounding defeat to the megahertz myth that they had created for themselves and those stupid enough to buy into it. The end.|
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