back to article How STEVE JOBS saved Apple's bacon with an outstretched ARM

The chip designers at ARM Holdings have turned the computing world upside down, shaken Intel to its core, pulled AMD into its orbit, and broadened its range beyond mobile into every nook and cranny of the digital world, from toys to servers. But where did this UK wonder company come from? How does it earn its living? And how …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another example of how the current phone industry owes a lot to Apple.

    People seem to forget the Newton when they rant on about prior art and how they owned a touch screen smartphone before the iPhone.

    ARM might not have been as successful or could have disappeared without the help of Apple and their interest in ARM.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Of course we have to thank Ti and Nokia too.

      Where were Samsung?

    2. Bladeforce

      Another example of how..

      ARM are leagues above anything INtel/AMD can produce. Apple did nothing apart from see a good chip, the company is run by geniuses that are NOT swayed by any evil corporate machine, simply because it aint American. Acorn was an awesome company way above anything Bill Gates could forsee, problem is Gates was American and used his theft to promote/dictate to the world. Very sad that computers lost decades to a thief. Lets face it Jobs had a thing with the UK, what with the Apple logo, ARM. He knew a good thing when he saw it

      1. frank ly

        @Bladeforce Re: Another example of how..

        Are you saying that Microsoft used strongARM tactics?

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Another example of how..

        Okay, I suspect the true narrative is a tad more nuanced than your Anglophile Jobs Evil Gates version.

        However I do remember a time when my family's DOS PC seemed very boring compared to my friends' Amigas and Ataris, or the Archimedes and Apples at school.

        1. sorry, what?
          Alert

          Taking a byte at history

          @Dave 126, latching on to your comment about the Archimedes, and to focus on the quote in the article:

          "Everybody my age in the UK used one of those machines at school," he said – Chris is a middle-aged chap – but "they're long gone now."

          I'd say this isn't right - though it may be I'm slightly older than Chris. None of my peers used the Archimedes and its ARM processor - we all used the BBC Micro with its 6502, at home, at school and at university. My recollection was that the Archimedes appeared that little bit too late and the IBM PC stole its place in history.

          1. JeeBee

            Re: Taking a byte at history

            The ARM1 was designed as a BBC Micro add-in processor, and Chris was referring to the BBC Micro in that statement.

            1. sorry, what?

              Re: Taking a byte at history

              @JeeBee, even if the ARM1 was being used in a tube second processor "add-in" (not something I was aware of), it certainly didn't go "into a system that became wildly popular in the UK education market". I never came across anyone using a second processor other than a Z80 one (from Torch) or a 320xx one (Acorn's Pandora)...

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Taking a byte at history

                I had (and still have) a BBC master with a 186 second processor board, although it's internal, not the external one.

              2. Stuart Halliday

                Re: Taking a byte at history

                I used a 6502 second processor on my Electron. Does that count?

          2. mal7921

            Re: Taking a byte at history

            I'm 41, I used the BBC in school and the Archimedes in college, I also provided the art package that our local authority used in the schools (It was my 'A' level project originally) when the Archimedes replaced the BBC (Usually the A3000 but later the A3010 or A3020) and have an A7000+ at home.

            The PC did take over but the Archie was there from the late 80's (1988 where I lived) in colleges right up to the mid 90's in some schools. It was (And still is) an excellent machine to learn programming on and was clock speed for clock speed faster than anything else on the market.

          3. Richard 22

            Re: Taking a byte at history

            "I'd say this isn't right - though it may be I'm slightly older than Chris"

            It's your age I'd guess. I'm 35. All BBCs were replaced by Archimedes before I got to secondary school (we still had a BBC B at my primary school as the only computer). We had a couple of Windows PCs looking lonely and unloved in the corner by the time I left secondary school. I don't think Windows PCs were widely used in education until after Win95 came out (what with it being a much more familiar interface to those used to RiscOS than the god-awful Win3.1, and with the general dominance of "IBM compatible" PCs by then).

            1. sorry, what?
              Pint

              Re: Taking a byte at history

              @Dave 126, mal7921 and Richard 22 - I stand educated! Yup it must be an age thing; I'm a decade older than Richard 22, and have a few more years on me than mal7921. This probably explains a lot.

              I have one friend (don't stop reading there!) who still has an Archimedes. He used to rave about RiscOS, but I never really got to have a play so can only be guided by your experiences. I grew up with beebs (and got a Master for use at uni). Now the beeb was an excellent machine to learn programming - both in BBC Basic and in 6502 assembler!

              Cheers!

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

          4. Ancientbr IT

            Re: Taking a byte at history

            You're right - the BBC Micro was one of the machines officially approved for use in UK schools. Research Machines 380Z was another, as I recall, although it cost ten times as much as the BBC Micro (which meant schools that opted for RM's offering could really only afford to buy one machine per school. Ouch).

            I also recall the tussle for the Beeb's Literacy contract - Pope Clive felt that he could capitalize on the ZX80/81 but didn't manage to beat Acorn who already had a successor to their Atom in the works (the Proton) which was swiftly repurposed. The BBC Micros eventually evolved into the Archimedes.

            Ah, nostalgia. It's a pain in the ..er.. nost.

          5. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Building photocopiers

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          @sorry, what?

          I was only talking about a certain place and time, around 1990, and the schools I knew. No one I knew had an Archimedes at home (they mostly had Amigas, Atari STs or a console), but my primary school had one - and it appeared to an eleven year old boy more advanced (prettier graphics! Nice sounds!) than the Olivetti 8086 we had at home (no sound card or game port, no graphical desktop environment).

          A year later, and my next school had a suite of Archimedes... we were even allowed to play David Braben's 'Lander' (aka Virus, Zarch) on the last day of term. The graphics were Wow! at the time.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=653Ger80ros

      4. buzzy2

        Re: Another example of how..

        "Apple did nothing apart from see a good chip"

        Yes, certainly there is no value in recognizing what is good and what is bad.

        "simply because it aint American"

        A sound basis upon which to proceed with an argument.

        Also, you left out Jony, but, based on the random walk nature of your arguments, whose to say you see any value there.

      5. Nitpicker

        Re: Another example of how..

        What thievery do you accuse Gates of? Apple's GUI? Digital Research's CPM? IBM's reputation (and resources)? Usability in favor of being attractive to corporate buyers instead of users? Or something even less well known? Too bad he gave away the valuable company to a co-founder who took it down by making employees compete instead of collaborate. Perhaps his successor will have more sense.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Apple should probably just buy Arm with some of their foreign cash pile and have done with it - but perhaps it's just cheaper to license their tech instead.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's highly likely that if Apple tried to buy ARM, all of the other uses of ARM would get together and buy them instead.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I imagine there must be some terms in their licences to address what happens if the company changes hands; no large company would effectively bet the farm on ARM devices if the pipeline could be abruptly cut off by a competitor. I think competition authorities might have something to say about it, too!

        2. theblackhand

          What would happen if Apple buys ARM?

          The rest of the industry would probably move to MIPS - it may not be as advanced as ARM, but it's not too far behind. Until Intel are able to compete with ARM or MIPS on price they won't be a serious competitor.

          The amazing thing about ARM is not the CPU - it's the business model. ARM CPU's are common in phones (and have been for a long time) because they are cheap to produce and "easy" to customise (from a manufacturers point of view you only have to worry about the design and the features/IP that you are adding - you aren't trying to convince another manufacturer to redesign a custom chip for your needs). MIPS would fit that model if there was a compelling reason to move away from ARM.

          1. Dick Pountain

            Re: What would happen if Apple buys ARM?

            The business model and the CPU can't be separated. Steve Furber designed the original ARM for minimal silicon real estate and power consumption - it was those virtues (well ahead of competitors at the time) that enabled ARM CPU blocks to be combined into systems-on-a-chip as silicon densities increased.

            1. itzman
              Thumb Up

              Re: What would happen if Apple buys ARM?

              "Steve Furber designed the original ARM for minimal silicon real estate and power consumption"

              Er no. He designed it to be as cheap as possible to fabricate, because the original products it was designed for could not actually afford the foundry costs of a big chip.

              An there it languished until mobile computing started to take off. suddenly the minimalist design was outperforming rivals in terms of battery life - and the rest is history.

              Low power consumption was never a design objective: it was just a side effect of another one. Not wishing to take anything away from ARM, but it was - as many success stories are - a matter of being in the right place at the right time, often for all the wrong reasons.

              My real admiration for ARM is the development of the business model, that allowed them to grow against the likes of INTEL without spending that sort of money. The understanding that ASIC technology could be used to leverage IP into a licensing model that required only what ARM could deliver - technical smarts - was the key.

      2. stu 4

        "Apple should probably just buy Arm with some of their foreign cash pile and have done with it - but perhaps it's just cheaper to license their tech instead."

        Interesting idea. I wonder why they don't ? Almost worth the loss ?

        i.e. buy ARM, refuse licences to any other competitors for phone chips, take the loss on the company bottom line (still be profitable through non-phone related licences).

        A bit like GM buying out all the trams in Los Angeles back in the 40s.

        Would the loss on the ARM purchase be made up for the fact that the android devices would cease to get faster (no more new ARM chips) ?

    4. Oh Homer
      Thumb Down

      Re: "Another example of how the current phone industry owes a lot to Apple."

      Apple paid ARM for a CPU design. Since presumably both parties received exactly what they agreed upon, then the account is settled, and therefore no one "owes" anyone anything.

      So, ultimately, Apple's only real "achievement" was ... it was one of ARM's customers.

      Is the rest of the world supposed to feel privileged, just because Apple went shopping?

  2. Robert E A Harvey

    I just think it's a shame

    That they can't make some RiscOS machines for fun. With an income like that they could afford to fill British schools with them, for free.

    1. Norman Hartnell

      Re: I just think it's a shame

      RiscOS runs on Raspberry Pi, so you can have a very cheap RiscOS machine these days. It's amazingly fast as the OS is very small compared to Raspbian.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

    Quote

    When discussing his company's 64-bit ARMv8 architecture, Shore revealed that ARM-licensee Apple's implementation of it in its A7 processor came as a surprise to many at ARM. "Our fruity friends earlier this year stunned the world, actually, and stunned most of ARM's employees, in fact, by releasing the latest version of the iPhone supporting and including a 64-bit processor," he said. "They'd done that incredibly secretly and ended up stealing a march on the whole of the rest of the industry. It was quite a staggering achievement, to be honest."

    Can all people who post here saying that apple only copy and don't innovate please remember this paragraph.

    But they won't will they?

    all I'm trying to point out is that not every company is evil/good/bad/god incarnate.

    This post will probably be sent to hell by the Apple Haters who are so blinkered in their view of the world it matters little what anyone says against them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

      Buying a license to another company's IP and then using it is innovation?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

        As ARM sells its IP to its Licensees AND then doing something neat with it then yes. Especially so if the IP holder expresses surprise at the way they did it.

        If that isn't innovating then ask what the reaction of the Fandroids if Samsung had done this first. They'd be crowing from the tree-tops over this.

        As a former silcon designer, I can see from the various takedowns of the 5S that apple have done a lot of very neat work to get that CPU working in that package. There is a lot of very good stuff done under the covers that never sees the light of day. The way they have made their CPU and GPU work so well together is very impressive. Personally, I call that being innovative.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

        If that other company - ARM, who are presumably more knowledgable on this than you - say so, then yes.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

        Apple are an architectural licensee so they can design their own cores

      4. Joseph Lord
        Boffin

        Re: so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

        > Buying a license to another company's IP and then using it is innovation?

        A "big bundle of RTL" (as the article describes what ARM license) representing a processor architecture design does not a silicon chip ready for manufacturing make. There would still have have been massive amounts of design work in the integration to the process and the rest of the components on the chip. Whether it meets your definition of innovative getting the chip out of the door in volume before anyone else is ready to do one is definitely impressive.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

      >and stunned most of ARM's employees

      I read that as meaning only a group within ARM were working on the 64bit design, or that others within ARM were working on it but didn't realise that it was ready for production at the time.

      But yeah, I find the Evil Company / Saintly Company terms boring too. I prefer to look at the products a company can bring out if it is in full control of its hardware and OS, and at the products that can result when anyone can make a component and drivers. These two approaches have different strengths; as an example, the former can produce a tighter integration and fewer variables to troubleshoot, and the latter can drive down prices by having, say, AMD compete against nVidia. Apple can bring multi-touch gestures to OSX because they know their hardware touchpad is suitable, whereas I use a lovely Logitech mouse.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

        > I read that as meaning only a group within ARM were working on the

        > 64bit design, or that others within ARM were working on it but didn't

        > realise that it was ready for production at the time.

        ARM's 64-bit architecture *spec* has been finished for quite a while now.

        Apple built their own processor that implements that spec. Most people at ARM didn't know that they were doing that, or at least didn't know the timescale for it.

        (ARM licensees are in two groups: those who do their own implementations to the spec that ARM provides, and those who use designs that ARM provides. Apple has been in the former category, implementing their own designs, since about when they acquired the very experienced chip design team from P.A. Semi in 2008.)

    3. Mage Silver badge

      Re: so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

      Apple bought an "ARM design house". That team applied its previous skill and ARM IP to produce the A7. The first iPhone used a Samsung developed ARM.

      So Apple "natively" are a Product Style and Marketing company. Very little software or hardware innovation. Even most of the style is copied from Braun & Dieter Rams.

      But then again MS bought in SQL, Visio, DOS and many more. Original MS Basic ripped off mostly over a weekend from Dartmouth BASIC by Bill Gate's friend. They did really produce Word & Excel (the two most successful Office apps ever?) but ironically initially for the Mac (Lisa MkII copy of Xerox Star) as their own GUI copy of Xerox wasn't quite able then!

      Google bought in Maps and Android, copied Java and used Linux. (They are really an Advertising Agency).

      The patent system is broken and there is a small amount of incremental innovation by anyone. Often most by small acorns that are snaffled up by pigs.

      JAVA internal design concepts based on p-Machine used to run p-code produced by UCSD pascal.

      No one designs from scratch and in isolation very often.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Even most of the style is copied from Braun & Dieter Rams.

        Borroks and a thousand times borroks!

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Even most of the style is copied from Braun & Dieter Rams.

          >Even most of the style is copied from Braun & Dieter Rams.

          Dieter Rams doesn't call himself a designer but (when roughly translated into English) a 'form engineer'. Jony Ive openly acknowledges the influence, but he's not copying Rams' style but his methodology, an approach to design. Ram's 'Ten Principles of Good Design' are here:

          http://www.sfmoma.org/about/press/press_exhibitions/releases/880

          People can easily copy style (remember the plague of cheap translucent blue products - staplers, USB hubs etc- that followed in the wake of the orginal iMac?), but following principles is harder, it requires an understanding of your particular problem and the materials available to you to solve it.

          Of course you'd be a fool to be blind to when a problem has been solved before... you want to make a music playback device that fits in a pocket? The act of of sliding the device in and out of your pocket is a large part of its 'use'. Okay, let's look at cigarette cases and Sony Walkmans- what aspects can you usefully implement in your design?

    4. Blitterbug
      Thumb Up

      Re: This post will probably be sent to hell by the Apple Haters

      Not by this one. Have an upvote. My issues are with the boneheads who posted facile twattery like 'hur hur why don't Apple just buy ARM and have done with it', or 'Apple saved ARM'. Take nearly all mobile phones from from the late 90s on, plus Android tablets, and every Nintendo handheld since the GBA to get just a small idea of how little ARM needs Apple.

  4. Eek

    The Archimedes was popular in schools?

    I remember the BBC Model b being popular in schools but I don't think the Archimedes (which the ARM Chip was designed for) was ever that popular.

    It was the lack of popularity of the Archimedes as IBM PCs took off that meant ARM become its own company and Acorn is no more.....

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: The Archimedes was popular in schools?

      My primary school had one Archimedes, and my junior school had a suite of them. I can't comment on how widespread they were, other than noting they seemed fairly well supported on the software front.

    2. Tom 38

      Re: The Archimedes was popular in schools?

      I really liked Archimedes, we had a mixed suite of them and BBC-Bs at school for 5-6 years before we even had a single PC. Much better documented than a PC, you could easily sit down and write applications. I'd written programs for the BBC before, but the first WIMP application I wrote was on a A3000.

      I even went on a day trip to Earls Court to some Acorn/Archimedes tech show where I saw the Newton for the first time, at that time, for a kid from the country, it was almost unbelievable.

  5. Richard Taylor 2
    FAIL

    ""That processor was designed by a very small team of only four engineers," he said, "one of whom designed the instruction set, one of whom did the microarchitecture, and two others who assisted with the designing of the supporting chipset." That tiny team produced the processor in 14 months, and it first ran code in Acorn's offices in Cambridge on 26 April, 1985. "And ARM still occupies that office."

    Saxby was important - subsequently. But I love the way the "iginuurs" are typically unnamed!

    1. Andy 73

      Mangled history

      Given how the Register produces fascinating 'history of computing' articles, the fuzziness around the development of the first ARM processor, and what exactly Acorn did is a bit disappointing.

      As is the lack of technical detail of how exactly Apple surprised ARM with their implementation. If someone tells you that they were surprised by something, wouldn't you ask what and why?

      1. GrumpyOldMan

        Re: Mangled history

        Not really. As they have already said, they license the design, how you then use it is up to you, and some customers choose not to feed back to ARM. I don't feed back to Tescos what I do with the ingredients I buy from them. Or to Dell as to what we do with their servers - although they were a bit surprised! I find it a very refreshing attitude. And ARM are not very far from where I am sat now.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mangled history

        First, on the topic: interesting that only one of the four ARM sites is in Britain now. So, where is the main design work done? Is it still British, apart from ownership and management? Actually, I suspect the ownership is not even mainly British.

        Now a moan:

        Spelling and so on: "licenCe" versus "licenSe" was taught to me long ago and, like "practiCe" and "practiSe" (noun and verb) seem perfectly logical. I note even some American writers have learnt it and use it now.

        Is n't it possible for people, who pretend to be professional writers, to write consistent, good English with good grammar and correct spelling, with good translations where appropriate (including from American to English, e.g. spelling, metaphors and similes translated to English versions, the archaisms like "gotten" trimmed to the modern English, post 17th century equivalents) and grammatical mistakes corrected (such as "different than" instead of "different from", cf. "differ from")? If a computer programmer made similar levels of mistakes, the programme would not even compile or, in more forgiving languages, do something other than the intention. As we expect programmers to do better, it is only reasonable to expect writers in their native language to do better.

        Of course, perhaps your real market is the USA; but I dare say most of them can cope with English at least as well as some Britons think they cope with American.

        1. El_Fev

          Re: Mangled history @ Anonymous Coward 2013 12:57 GMT

          GET A LIFE!!!

          I can see why you posted AC!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Mangled history

          @AC who insists British English should be used by Americans:

          "...it is only reasonable to expect writers in their native language to do better." Since the article is bylined "Rik Myslewski in San Francisco," one can only assume that American English is the author's native language.

          "...the programme would not even compile..." Don't you mean "program"?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Mangled history

            >If a computer programmer made similar levels of mistakes, the programme would not even compile

            Poor analogy, I'm afraid. Language between people evolves, and should someone use a word we don't understand we're very adept at grokking it's meaning from the context. Slang arises, turns of phrase spread through the population.

            Indeed, American English is often more 'correct' than British English, because the colonies as they were at the time were fairly isolated from each other and had a low population density compared to Blighty. The British English language has changed more than American English in the centuries since then, because there were more people, a denser population, more regional dialects and vocabularies being brought together by technology (migration to cities, railways, literacy, later radio), and the influence of our empire.

            And yes, I'm aware that I'm devaluing the full meaning of 'grok'.

        3. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: Re: Mangled history

          "Spelling and so on"

          The article author Rik, who has years of experience, is American and wrote the piece in San Francisco, although it was published in UK time. Our US colleagues use license, our UK office uses licence.

          C.

      3. mahasamatman

        Re: Mangled history

        Detail is here:

        http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/05/03/unsung_heroes_of_tech_arm_creators_sophie_wilson_and_steve_furber/

      4. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Mangled history

        "the fuzziness around the development of the first ARM processor, and what exactly Acorn did is a bit disappointing."

        Well, I'm sorry you're disappointed, but we've covered Acorn history in-depth before - for example here and here. I've linked to our previous coverage from today's article for further reading.

        C.

    2. mahasamatman

      Named:

      ARM creators Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber

      [made link text shorter to avoid forum breakage - mod]

    3. Sandtreader

      Wilson / Furber

      Not a single mention of Sophie (then Roger) Wilson and Steve Furber. Really sad.

    4. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Richard Taylor 2

      I've added their names in (and a link!)

      C.

  6. 0765794e08
    Facepalm

    Beep!

    “… a company called Acorn Computers, which made desktop PCs primarily for the education market…”

    Forgive me for being pernickety, but I certainly wouldn’t describe a BBC Micro or an Acorn Archimedes as a ‘desktop PC’. There weren’t IBM-PC clones, young fella-me-lad.

    They were microcomputers. Get the terminology right please, or you dishonour the wonderful machines that Acorn created.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Beep!

      Err... There is a difference between a Microcomputer, a PC (Personal Computer), an IBM PC or IBM PC Clone.

      They got the terminology correct, the Arc and Beeb were both personal computers, in that they were definitely not workstations or mini/mainframes.

    2. Tom 38

      Re: Beep!

      It's a personal computer that sits on top of your desk - how can that not be a "desktop PC"?

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Beep!

        A PC is a Personal Computer, but at the time it was common to refer to a IBM compatible PC as a 'PC' and to call an Amiga an Amiga, an Atari and Atari etc.

        Even the "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" advert of a few years ago leaves out the [Windows].

  7. bill 36

    DECadent

    I remember hearing a rumour back in the mid 90's that DEC were considering using the ARM architecture to replace MIPS and possibly abandon ALPHA.

    I had considered buying shares in ARM should that have happened.

    Anyone want to buy a crystal ball for spare parts? Wish i'd known what i know now :>(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DECadent

      StrongARM was developed by DEC ... can't recall the exact history but think it was done by the Alpha people after that was dropped. Then when Compaq bought up DEC they saw it as being superfluous to their requirements and off-loaded it to Intel. Then after a bit Intel saw StrongARM as being a confusion to their x86 (and possibly Itanium) road map so they offloaded it to, I think, Marvel.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: DECadent

        "StrongARM was developed by DEC ... can't recall the exact history but think it was done by the Alpha people after that was dropped."

        Not really.

        Both came out of the DEC business unit called Digital Semiconductor, but beyond that, they were mostly done by different people, and definitely aimed at different markets. StrongARM was aimed at PDA-class markets (remember them?) and Alpha was intended to go from desktop to datacenter with a fringe of high performance embedded.

        This Marvel has two Ls: Marvell.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: DECadent

      Intel ironically got the DEC StrongARM IP & stuff as part payment of some settlement. They sold most of it to Marvell, but not all (they had an ARM based comms chip last time I looked in 2008). AFIAK Intel do still have an ARM licence of some kind.

      It seems unlikely DEC was going to replace Alpha with ARM. After all there was even a 64 bit NT 4.0 for the 64 bit Alpha. They might have used it in a Terminal or handheld device or network gadget or SCSI controller I suppose.

      DEC is a great loss. Compaq & HP pissed it away. They only wanted the service support aspect anyway, none of the R&D, SW or HW. HP in taking over Compaq and "rationalising" seemed to ditch some of the better products of both companies. Too many decisions by speculators, lawyers and accountants.

      1. Mike Dimmick

        Re: DECadent

        As I recall, there was never a public version of 64-bit Windows (beta or Gold) for Alpha. NT 4.0 supported Alpha, using the 32-bit instruction set, and Windows 2000 supported it right up to release candidate 1. Then Compaq pulled the plug on support. MS press release: http://web.archive.org/web/19991012214337/http://microsoft.com/NTServer/nts/news/msnw/compaq.asp

        Why did it matter for Compaq to support it? Windows on Alpha was never a retail product, only available with a new Alpha-based system (OEM product), and MS require the OEM to provide front-line support for OEM Windows. (I think they'd do better by standing behind their product, regardless of how acquired, but it's their decision, and a large part of why OEM Windows is substantially cheaper than Retail editions.)

        I believe MS continued to work on 64-bit Windows using Alpha hardware until IA-64 hardware became available in moderate volume. WOW64's origins - of running 32-bit x86 Windows programs on 64-bit Alpha 'native' operating system - explain a lot of the oddities in the handling of 32-bit programs on x86-64, such as dual views of the registry, inability to load 32-bit code in a 64-bit process, completely separate 32- and 64-bit copies of most libraries, segregated Program Files folders, etc.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DECadent

      Quite possibly. Digital was probably one of the first ARM licensees when they collaborated with ARM Ltd (as it was) to combine the efficient ARM architecture with DEC's high clock speed (but thirsty) Alpha technology to produce the StrongARM processors. Until then, Acorn's ARM6 (as used in the original Newton) typically ran at 25 or 33 MHz, but the first production StrongARM (SA-110 released in 1996) ran at 100 to 200MHz.

      When Digital went down the drain, StrongARM ended up in Intel's hands, where it spawned XScale.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was of the understanding that Apple blocked the launch of the Archimedes in the USA (citing desktop IP), thus making sure that Acorn couldn't really expand out of the UK and possibly Europe, which eventually sealed their fate.

    Apple also didn't use the ARM chip for their move to RISC when they moved the MacIntosh range to Power instead, again an odd choice for a company said to be the saviour of ARM.

    Jobs, upon return to Apple killed off the Newton as quickly as he could because he didn't like it - personally I loved mine - making sure that Apple didn't use the ARM at all until the iPod or iPhone? They then all sold their shares in ARM.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      No, Apple wasn't saviour of ARM, ARM helped save Apple. Re-read the article!

    2. Jason Hindle

      A lot more complex than that....

      "Apple also didn't use the ARM chip for their move to RISC when they moved the MacIntosh range to Power instead, again an odd choice for a company said to be the saviour of ARM."

      The Power PC decision was part of an unholy alliance with IBM in the 90s, in a futile attempt to thwart Microsoft. This included the object orientated Taligent OS. Power PC was as much about politics as it was about pragmatism (though it wasn't an unpragmatic choice, at the time) .

    3. Irony Deficient Silver badge

      Archimedes in the USA

      Anonymous Coward of 13:04 GMT, at the time I looked into purchasing an Archimedes for myself when they were first offered here in the States. For me, it was its price that caused me to not buy one. (I probably still have the brochure and price list up in my attic somewhere, but it would take an archæological expedition to uncover them.)

  9. heyrick Silver badge

    Acorn might be no more, however...

    Roll your own: https://www.riscosopen.org/

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    An interesting recap of history for those who did not live through it.

    Thanks for that.

    ARM's independence is actually one of it's key assets. it's the fact no one owns them that allows them to license to everyone.

    1. FrankAlphaXII

      Re: An interesting recap of history for those who did not live through it.

      >>ARM's independence is actually one of it's key assets. it's the fact no one owns them that allows them to license to everyone

      They're publicly traded though, so if they truly value that independence, which I see is as of keystone importance to their business, they should probably take the company private, or to transfer the important IP to a private holding company that isn't owned by ARM on paper (if that's legal in the UK, I'm not a British Lawyer) to avoid the likes of Samsung or Apple purchasing them and shattering that independence.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: An interesting recap of history for those who did not live through it.

        By being listed their holdings are publicaly available and there are strict and well enforced rules to prevent Samsung/Apple/Intel etc owning more than a certain percentage without announcing a formal takeover and triggering a shitload of regulatory / competition investigation.

        If they were private then Dr Evil could secretly buy them and hold the word to ransom for $1Million. Which is why ARM is only viable if everybody knows who owns them

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Apple/Samsung buying ARM

        What would be the point of Apple or Samsung buying them? It isn't as though ARM CPUs are uniquely suited for phones, so one of them buying ARM would hurt the other. The licenses each holds aren't going to expire the minute ARM is purchased, so either would have plenty of lead time to avoid any problems. They could switch to MIPS or PowerPC or even design their own similar RISC ISA.

        If anyone might have reason to want to buy ARM and toss the phone world into turmoil it would be Intel, but at a purchase price of over $20 billion it would never pay off even if they were able to chase a large portion of the Android world to x86 (which I think is unlikely)

        1. David Dawson

          Re: Apple/Samsung buying ARM

          Last time I heard, many of the major licensees each already holds significant shareholdings in ARM, enough for just a couple of them to block a takeover by one of the others.

          They are all invested in the continuing independence of ARM.

          1. itzman

            Re: Apple/Samsung buying ARM

            "They are all invested in the continuing independence of ARM."

            And therein lies the key. the chip foundries want a stock bit of architecture that is open and compatible enough so that stock OS like android will run on it, so the real development is happening at the bottom - chip fab - and as the top - product and application design.

            What they dont want is to be held to ransom by another chip fabber like Intel.

            Ok these days porting an OS to a new chip isn't a huge deal, but why bother at all?

            You have to look at where the entities involved are doing the added value. CPU design is not one of them. CPU integration is though.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ARM is also extensively covered in...

    Backroom Boys - The Secret Return of the British Boffin. Brilliant book, also covers Vodafone, The Sanger Institute, and others... :-)

  12. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: [Some anti-UK prejudice, y'think? — Ed.]

    No, I don't think. If you have to guess then you ought to play the odds and, as the article notes, the odds point to tech companies being US-based and West Coast at that.

    1. Steve Knox
      Boffin

      Re: [Some anti-UK prejudice, y'think? — Ed.]

      But outliers exist, and the statement in the article:

      many people are surprised that ARM is a UK company [Some anti-UK prejudice, y'think? — Ed.]

      clearly indicates that these people aren't being asked to guess, they're being told. To be surprised upon being told that a company is a UK company means more than it wouldn't be your first guess -- it means you have trouble even conceiving the possibility.

  13. DiViDeD

    Frothy Frothy

    "Jobs returned to Apple and shortly took control of the company in the late '90s"

    Come on, guys. You're the ones who went with the language/comprehension/journalism degrees!

    Jobs came in AS CEO (later changed to 'interim'), and gave it up after he was BRIEFLY in control.

    It's as bad as the current merkin insistence that 'momentarily' means 'soon'. 'Oh he'll be available momentarily'

    'Yes, but WHEN will be there? Because if he's only going to be there momentarily I don't want to miss him'

    This has led to more vacuous looks of surprise and further insistence of 'well, momentarily' than the mind can comfortably bear. I'm seriously considering carrying a cricket bat with me to use as a Grammerial Corrective Tool

    1. Rik Myslewski
      Headmaster

      Re: Frothy Frothy

      >>Jobs came in AS CEO (later changed to 'interim')

      Uh, no. Check out my article "The life and times of Steven Paul Jobs, Part One". Two pertinent paragraphs:

      "When Jobs landed at Apple in early 1996, he came without a title any more specific than 'adviser' and without any duties more-defined than 'advising' – a minister without portfolio, as it were. But that didn't stop him from remaking Apple into a company more to his liking.

      However, despite all the buzz of a 'palace coup', the lack of faith in Amelio by many Apple staffers, and the desire by many throughout Silicon Valley for him to take over, a BusinessWeek article from that period quotes Jobs as saying: 'People keep trying to suck me in. They want me to be some kind of Superman. But I have no desire to run Apple Computer. I deny it at every turn, but nobody believes me'."

      Just sayin'...

  14. All names Taken

    I wonder how long it will take to shift these?

    http://www.idealworld.tv/_289093.aspx?icn=Go_clever_smartphone&ici=Homepage_Mini_1

    (I have no pecuniary interest in above)

  15. A.A.Hamilton

    How do ARM protect this IP?

    I found the article interesting and entertaining but the question of IP protection and security nagged at me constantly as I read it.

    Bearing in mind that cyber crime is now one of the really profitable on-line enterprises of today (thank you Microsoft), surely there must be continuous attempts by states, groups and individuals to access ARM's IP through unlicensed means? And we have seen enough notable successes by such criminals in recent years to make me think that no means of protection via security is fool proof. So what can ARM do? Is operating their R&D processes completely off-line (physically and logically) either sensible or possible?

    However an even bigger risk is to ARM's IP after it has been transferred to a partner. Those partners are, on average, going to be slightly less motivated than ARM itself to protect that IP. Worse, as the number of parters increases so does the risk of one of them shooting themselves in the foot accidentally or, depending on personal cupidity, on purpose.

    The ownership of the IP cannot be protected through legal processes. The most likely source for cyber criminals for this sort of prize is going to be Russia or China, where IP protection is in practice impossible depending on how well connected the relevant government official is and how much he might be able to enrich his life.

    What's ARM's strategy here?

  16. Stuart Halliday
    Angel

    Sophie once said, "we wanted to make a processor fast enough to run BASIC so that we wouldn't have to work making games in machine code like we did on the BBC B."

    High motives indeed and one that is still carried out to this day by computer engineers everywhere!

  17. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    Acorn were able to evaluate a number of processors becuase of the Tube interface.

    I think it might have been a lecture of Sophie Wilson where she said they'd tried both the NS 16032 and the Western Digital 16 bit version of the 6502 but neither really measured up for the next generation Acorn computer. They liked the idea of a 16 bit 6502 but were put off by the completely hand laid out design (IE no PLA's).

    And then they thought "Why not do our own?" And the rest is history.

    You're looking at a 32 bit processor in 22 000 gates.

    Yes it's an anorak.

  18. abhhba

    The difference between ARM and APPLE

    Being older than most of your contributors I remember the BBC, BBC Master and Archimedes ion all of its various guises. These machines were light years ahead of the boring PC's and over hyped Apple's of the time. I was involved in the installation of networks of BBC's, Master and Archimedes in over 100 schools in just 1 LEA in the UK and we were one of the smallest LEA's using these machines. Programming and getting inside the machines was actively encouraged. the speed, graphical capabilities and innovative software available was way ahead of anything else. Unfortunately BG's monolith killed these machines off and provided slower, buggier, poor quality OS after OS. It took more 5 years before transparency was available in graphics on the PC. Apple was a mess for most of this time with a small niche market in design and DTP.

    Nowadays we have APPLE, who give normal control freaks a bad name, nobody is allowed to produce anything for their machines unless granted the royal JOB's approval, even now he seems to haunt the corridors of Cupertino. They killed off almost as much innovation as Microsoft did in the early years. I worked with some of the early RISC personnel who would be horrified by the way in which these people have taken a fantastic open architecture and way of thinking and turned it into grossly inflated cash cow.

  19. Vociferous

    Low profitability.

    At first I wondered how they had avoided being copied and outcompeted by the Chinese, as their business model is to effectively give away the farm in return for licensing fees, but then it struck me: the reason that doesn't happen is their low profitability.

    Their designs are in every cellphone, and nearly ever other electronic device -- and their revenue is just 900 million pounds per year. Compare that to Intel, which last year had a revenue of 52 billion dollars.

    In short, the cost of licensing is so low that it is simply more profitable for Chinese chip makers to license the chip than to steal and then be forced to do their own R&D.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022