AMD History: 50 Years of Rapid Development

On May 1, 2019, AMD celebrated its anniversary - 50 years, during which it managed to become one of the largest manufacturers of central and graphic processors, and in recent years has been showing active growth. In honor of the anniversary of AMD, I decided to tell in detail about the history of the company and test one of the old processors.

The main thing is people!

Any company does not start with a product, people behind a single product are united by a common goal, which is interesting, at the initial stage, AMD’s history is somewhat similar to Intel, the main competitor in the processor market. The idea of ​​founding AMD, whose abbreviation stands for Advanced Micro Devices, which means “advanced microdevices,” came to eight Fairchild Semiconductor immigrants: Jeremy Sanders, Jack Gifford, Edwin Terney, John Carey, Larry Stinger, Frank Bott, Sven Simonsen , Jim Giles, and the first employee hired was Tom Skrnia.


The policy of Fairchild Semiconductor, at that time the semiconductor giant, did not suit many young engineers who saw the enormous potential of technology, but were constrained in development. Therefore, seven ambitious engineers and, at that time, Fairchild Semiconductor Marketing Director Jeremy Sanders, decided to found their own company to explore new segments of the growing semiconductor market.

The largest role in the founding of AMD is given to Jeremy Sanders, because in addition to excellent knowledge in marketing and team management, he is also a fairly competent engineer who spoke “in the same language” with the team. Moreover, one of the famous phrases of Jeremy Sanders - “People at the head of everything, products and profits will follow them!”, Speaks for itself, and makes it clear that Sanders understood the importance of personnel.


Despite the small authorized capital of only $ 100,000, the start of the AMD company, registered on May 1, 1969 in Sunnyvale, California, required an impressive amount of about $ 1.5 million, but if the current IT startups quickly find the necessary amounts, those At that time, investors were very wary of this industry, and many investors had to get around to collect the required amount.

A curious fact is that one of the first investors for AMD was Robert Neuss, who at that time was already the head of Intel.

The bulk of the investment was collected by private investors of Capital Group Companies.

Fast start

The young company could not be pulled with the release of its products and already in November 1969 the first product was introduced and it was far from a microprocessor, while there were no microprocessors at all, but it was a 4-bit register chip Am9300.

The product of its own development was introduced in 1970 and was the first binary / hexadecimal logic counter Am2501 and due to the uniqueness of the solution and availability, it became commercially successful for the company.

Further, the company, in addition to its own development, begins reverse engineering of Intel microprocessors and one of the first available microprocessors from AMD is Am9080 (an analog of Intel 8008), which, incidentally, was initially released without Intel licensing, but very soon Intel signed a licensing agreement without obstacles. In general, it is impossible to say that the Am9080 is a complete clone of the Intel 8008, because the engineers managed to significantly increase productivity with small modifications, but at the same time delivering their product is also cheaper.

AMD company from the very beginning of its existence carefully monitored the quality of its products and already in 1976 became the only integrated circuit manufacturing company that received a military and space class certificate of quality.

The following years, AMD for the most part produced microprocessors under the Intel license, again with its improvements and more productive than competitive solutions. During this time, the market has a strong impression of AMD products in that they are analogs of Intel's solutions, but are more productive and less expensive.

Time for bold decisions

The time of bold decisions for both AMD and its main competitor, Intel, fell in the mid-nineties, when the Pentium was already on sale, and AMD was finishing work on a fully-developed processor. And in 1996, the AMD K5 processor was introduced, based on the RISC architecture and compatible with x86 instructions, released in an effort to bypass the competitor. The processor was produced in the early versions of the 500 nm process technology, and later on the 350 nm process technology. The AMD K5 had two problems that did not allow to capture the market. The first was production problems and the processors could not work at the originally planned frequencies, and the second problem was, oddly enough, in its own architecture, since software already included a number of errors that Intel processors could ignore

However, for the first processor of its own design, AMD K5 can be considered successful, again, at lower clock speeds, it showed higher performance than competitor solutions and, importantly, cost less.

In 1996, AMD acquired the young company NexGen, which successfully worked on the development of microprocessors and in 1997 released the AMD K6 processor. The new processor also worked on the RISC architecture and was produced in various modifications according to the technical process from 350 nm to 180 nm (for later versions of the AMD K6-III). The AMD K6 processors were already much more competitive with Intel solutions, had a significantly larger cache, and in later versions they received the 3DNow !, instruction set, which allowed to show better performance when processing multimedia data.

Athlon and the “battle for gigahertz”

Perhaps Athlon became one of the key processors for AMD, presented with a loud slogan in 1999 that it is the most powerful x86 processor. In addition, the company did not lie and Athlon outperformed any Intel solutions in performance. In the photo you can see the processor under Slot A. In addition to architectural improvements, AMD Athlon received technical improvements, for example, copper was used for the first time in the production of the processor, not aluminum.

In 2000, the company unconditionally wins the “battle for gigahertz” and represents the AMD Athlon 1000, but Intel was able to overcome this milestone only a year later. In the photo, the processor is executed under socket A and one of the problems, as for me, is an open chip, which, when installed incorrectly and inaccurately, was easy to chip, and inexperienced users chopped off the chip more than once.

Further development of the AMD Athlon in 2001 went into two lines of Athlon MP - processors designed for multi-socket configurations, and Athlon XP - for home PCs.

I managed to find AMD Athlon XP 2500+ in good condition, and this processor at the start of sales cost $ 169, exactly the same cost at the start of sales of AMD Ryzen 5 1500 and I decided to compare the performance of these processors in a number of old, but tested benchmarks. The results are lower in the graphs and speak for themselves. Yes, processors have gone very far during this time.

First time

Already in 2003, AMD introduced the first x86-based processors that support 64-bit instruction sets, such as Athlon 64 and server-side Opteron. This can be called another AMD victory, since a year before Intel introduced itanium processors that supported 64-bit instruction sets, but they were not compatible with the x86 instruction set and sold extremely poorly, but after the release of Athlon 64 itanium remained only in the server market and only for a certain kind of computing.

The next important event, in addition to the release of dual-core processors, was the release in 2007 of the year AMD Phenom on the architecture of the 10th generation. One of the main engineering solutions at AMD Phenom is the placement of 4 physical cores on a single chip.

Not just processors

Perhaps the most important purchase of AMD was the Canadian company ATI Technologies, which worked on the GPU. As early as October 25, 2006, ATI Technologies officially became a division of AMD.

Losses and new inventions

In subsequent years, the success of a competitor in the processor market leads to a drop in AMD's profits and the company has no choice but to sell its plants in 2009, first leaving a small share of their shares for themselves and then selling them to GlobalFoundries. From this moment, the company concentrates on developing new solutions for both the CPU and GPU.

The acquisition of ATI in 2006 allowed AMD to begin work on hybrid processors with integrated graphics. For the first time, such processors were introduced in 2011, and went on sale in 2012. By the way, APUs were quite successful in their niche, because at a low cost they allowed to assemble an office PC or a PC for an undemanding user without discrete graphics.

The next, really large, announcement occurred on the GPU market, in 2012 the new GPU Graphics Core Next architecture was introduced, and the first GPU on the new architecture was AMD Radeon HD 7770. In general, even the most modern GPUs work on slightly modified GCN.

Simultaneous work on the CPU and GPU allowed AMD to become the largest provider of console solutions, all the leading consoles of the current generation work on AMD hardware and it is already known that Sony and Microsoft consoles of the next generation will also work on it.

Active offensive

After many years of technological lag in the processor market, at the end of 2016 AMD introduces processors based on the new Zen architecture, which are available for sale in February 2017, and the most powerful processor in the line is AMD Ryzen 7 1800X, which has eight cores and sixteen threads. From my own experience, I can say that at the start of sales of Ryzen processors there were quite a lot of software problems both from the operating systems and from the microcode of the motherboard, and it was clear that the processors are far from their limits. It is worth saying thanks to AMD for the fact that they quickly corrected all possible problems and the performance increase from updating the BIOS and software was not only on paper. The new processors on Zen architecture showed an unconditional advantage in tasks,

In March 2017, AMD announced its HEDT platform with a powerful processor, which will become the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X, which includes 16 cores and 32 threads.

In June 2017, AMD returns to the server market and begins supplying EPYC processors with up to 32 cores and 64 threads per socket. Thus, AMD EPYC is a powerful computing platform.

The year 2018 was marked by the release of refreshes of the solutions already presented, and the largest changes occurred only in the AMD Ryzen Threadripper line - these processors received up to 32 cores.

This year, AMD introduced the first GPU based on the 7-nm process technology - AMD Radeon VII, and the main announcements will be ahead. This year promises to be interesting, because according to rumors from AMD already in the third quarter Ryzen processors of the three-thousandth series on the Zen2 architecture, and new GPUs based on the Navi architecture are expected. The new Ryzen processors may well get up to 16 cores, which is incredibly much for the home platform, but there is still very little insider information about the GPU.

We can only congratulate AMD on its 50th anniversary and watch the release of new, even more interesting products. In the end, Intel also moved from the Ryzen processors and we got more productive processors from both companies, that's what the competition is doing.

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