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The Pentium Chronicles: The People, Passion, And Politics Behind Intel's Landmark Chips

The Pentium Chronicles describes the architecture and key decisions that shaped the P6, Intel's most successful chip to date.  As author  Robert Colwell recognizes, success is about learning from others, and Chronicles is filled with stories of ordinary, exceptional people as well as frank assessments of "oops" moments, leaving you with a better understanding of what it takes to create and grow a winning product.

Paperback: 208 pages

Publisher: Wiley-IEEE Computer Society Pr; 1 edition (December 23, 2005)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0471736171

ISBN-13: 978-0471736172

Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.4 x 10.1 inches

Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)

Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

Best Sellers Rank: #862,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books) #102 in Books > Computers & Technology > Hardware & DIY > Microprocessors & System Design > Microprocessor Design #242 in Books > Computers & Technology > Hardware & DIY > Personal Computers > PCs #4827 in Books > Computers & Technology > Computer Science

I rated this book as three stars because the title promisedmore than it delivered. Nevertheless, it is a very good book,especially for people who have to manage huge projects incomplex technical areas. Colwell clearly is skilled intechnology, and has tremendous insight and experience to convey.My expectations were different. Tracy Kidder's Soul of a NewMachine created excitement and tension into the development ofcomputers, at least as of the early 1980s. The machine wassuccessful for Data General to some extent, but faded as a blipin history that few remember. Intel's P6, Colwell's baby, istotally the opposite, selling hundreds of millions of copies inmultiple forms since its inception. Kidder spins magic aboutthe development process. Colwell tells how to make it happen-- no magic, just cleverness and grunt work.What I found most valuable were Colwell's methods for takingon this huge project. Quantify your goals, quantify the meritsof each idea, and quantify your progress toward the goal.Without these measurements, you have no idea when you will finishand whether you will succeed when you get there. Ina field where technology moves very quickly, the differencebetween success and failure is not so much if you completethe job, but when you complete the job.Colwell pulls some punches because of corporate and personalsensitivities. He does not tell us very much about theP6 processor, but what is revealed is done skillfully inlayman terms so that the nontechnical reader can follow the development.

If you are involved in the world of integrated circuits, or considering becoming involved, then you'd be crazy to pass up this book. It's no less than a first-hand account of how the golden age of Intel came to be, as well as how it came to a close.In the early 90's, the common wisdom in the CPU industry was that a buzzword-complete (out-of-order, superscalar, superpipelined, speculative execution) x86 was simply impossible to sucessfully execute, hence the smorgasboard of then-new competing RISC architectures. The book's author led the architecture development of the project that proved otherwise.What's truly astonishing about a project of this scale is the vast array of things that have to go right in order to prevent a catastrophe (or, as a colleague says, it's not the rocket science, it's the rock science). Even more amazing is how many things the P6 team fundamentally got right (at least according to my own 15 years of IC experience). I was also delighted to find simple and yet brilliant ideas that were new to me, such as assigning cubicles by overlaying the building floorplan with the chip floorplan.The parts of the book that I found most entertaining (from the outside looking in, that is) were descriptions of the naive attempts to replicate and exceed the success of the P6 project, largely by deprecating the very mechanisms that led to that success.A word of warning: If you don't already have a lot of experience with large projects, you'll probably have to resist the urge to disbelieve many of the anecdotes. Obstructing Pentium 4 engineers from knowing their own plan seems ridiculous, but I can assure you that in my years in the IC business, I've seen worse.

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