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Intel 8008: The wild tale of the first 8-Bit CPU
Not technically the first... and not actually designed by Intel.
January 08, 2023
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The crazy world of 8-Bit personal computing truly kicked off in 1972 with the release of the Intel 8008 microprocessor. The impact of which can still be felt today — in fact, some of the designs of modern “x86” processors are built upon the foundation that the 8008 built.

But did you know…

  • Another company managed to get a working 8-Bit microprocessor before Intel?

  • The Intel 8008 had almost no design similarities to the Intel 4004 (and was not a successor)?

  • The initial functional design of the Intel 8008… was not actually made by Intel?

It’s all true. The history of the Intel 8008 — the CPU that formed the basis for the 8080, 8086, and the entire x86 processor family — is wild and woolly. To say the least.

So buckle up, buttercup. This is one heck of a ride.

Not based on the 4004

Let’s get this out of the way, right up front.

The Intel 4004 microprocessor was released in 1971 (the year before the 8008). The 4004 is a 4-Bit processor, while the 8008 is an 8-Bit processor.

These facts led many to believe that the 8008 was an upgraded, 8-bit version of the 4004. An easy assumption to make.

However…

The 8008 microprocessor was not based on the 4004. The 8008 was, in fact, a completely different design — not originally designed by Intel — that happened at roughly the same time as the 4004.

The Intel 4004 - Photo credit: Thomas Nguyen

These two chips are wildly different — the fact that the “4004” and “8008” have similar names is nothing but marketing.

So, if the 8008 was not originally designed by Intel… where the heck did it come from?

Well… San Antonio, Texas. Obviously.

Computer Terminal Corp

A company down in Texas named “Computer Terminal Corporation” was building a programmable computer terminal with an 8-bit CPU design.

A truly cool looking machine, with a massively widescreen CRT monitor: The Datapoint 2200.

 

Fun historical tidbit: One of the goals of the Datapoint 2200 was to replace the IBM Punch Card. Towards that end, the widescreen monitor on the Datapoint 2200 was almost exactly the same dimensions (displaying 12 rows of 80 characters) as those Punch Cards.

An IBM Punch Card
 

But this was 1969.

Which meant that there were no off-the-shelf CPUs that those nerdy Texans could use to build their 8-Bit machine. So they did what any good nerds would do… they built their own CPU design — using a wide array of individual components — on a large board.

A shot of the “core CPU board” of the Datapoint 2200. Photo courtesy: oldcomputers.net

The result is an “8-Bit CPU” (on a big ole’ board) powering the world’s first personal computer.

Historical Argument Time: Whether or not the Datapoint 2200 qualifies as the first “personal computer” has been debated for decades. One thing is certain… it is the first mass produced, programmable computer terminal. You could program in BASIC and run your programs locally. And, considering the size of the machine, it fits the definition of a Personal Computer — before any others were mass produced — in the opinion of The Lunduke Journal.

Obviously, this approach to the CPU board had some down-sides.

The vast number of individual an unique components on the CPU board for the 2200 meant that shortages or changes in any individual part could cause delays, re-designs, or wild pricing fluctuations. Plus it meant that building each CPU board was a time-intensive process. Then there was the heat issue. That board generated a lot of heat.

A Datapoint 2200 with the case removed. Photo courtesy: oldcomputers.net

To resolve these issues, Computer Terminal Corporation began working with two companies. Both competing to shrink large portions of the Datapoint’s 2200 8-Bit CPU into as small a number of chips as possible.

Those companies: Intel and Texas Instruments.

The TMX-1795 & Intel 1201

Intel and Texas Instruments were in a fierce competition to build the first 8-Bit microprocessor… based (very, very closely) on the designs of the Datapoint 2200. Both companies were, quite literally, miniaturizing the 2200’s CPU board design into a single chip.

It was a race. And these companies needed to move fast.

The first company to complete a functional microprocessor was Texas Instruments, with the TMX-1795.

The TMX-1795 CPU. Photo courtesy: Computer History Museum

Unfortunately for Texas Instruments, Computer Terminal Corporation was disappointed by the performance of the TMX-1795 (as it performed far slower than the Datapoint 2200’s larger, custom CPU board).

A few months later, Intel would also cross the finish line: providing the Intel 1201 CPU for evaluation to be used in the Datapoint 2200.

The Intel 1201, just like Texas Instrument’s offering, was simply not performing well enough.

In the end, Computer Terminal Corporation opted to not use either microprocessor — sticking with their larger, in-house designed board for the final release of the Datapoint 2200.

Texas Instruments, which had accomplished something truly remarkable — the development of the world’s first 8-Bit microprocessor (based on the design of the Datapoint) — opted to shelve their TMX-1795 entirely. It never went into production and never got any public release… existing only as a handful of demo and prototype units.

Intel, on the other hand, had other ideas…

The deal with Intel

Not long after the Intel 1201 project had been dropped… Seiko approached Intel about the idea of using this new 8-Bit CPU in a desktop calculator. But… who owned the rights to the 8-Bit 1201 chip? Intel or Computer Terminal Corp?

Luckily for Intel, the deal with Computer Terminal Corporation was extremely vague. In fact, it existed entirely as notes on a purchase order. There was no other contract, whatsoever. Seriously.

One of the most critical deals in all of computer history exists as nothing more than a few lines on a purchase order. How crazy is that?

But, as luck would have it, we have an actual copy of that purchase order.

This purchase order was uncovered and preserved by the sales rep

Note the purchase amount: $3,000,000. That’s for 100,000 Intel 1201 chips… at $30 each.

Now here’s where everything gets a bit... funky.  We're getting into brutal, cut-throat business here.

See that note scribbled at the top of the Purchase Order? “P.O. on hold - awaiting customer schedule.”

The reason for that note: Due to financial issues, Computer Terminal Corporation put a small delay on the CPU project. But then, when the project resumed, Intel missed the deadline (regardless of the delay). And the chip, when delivered, performed far slower than expected.

Plus… No Intel 1201 chips were ever delivered.

So… who owed who money? Based on the wording in the Purchase Order… it wasn’t at all cut and dried. This could have turned into a long legal battle to settle that question.

Intel used this opportunity to pressure Computer Terminal Corporation into giving the entire intellectual property of the 1201 chip to Intel… in exchange for simply dropping the matter entirely.

Intel would then, almost immediately, turn around and begin selling a slightly modified 1201 CPU (now called the “8008” for marketing purposes).

The 8008’s legacy

That new 8008 CPU would eventually lead to the 8080, 8086, 80286, and the full line of x86 processors that would almost totally define Intel and the PC industry for the next several decades.

While the 8008 was not the only 8-Bit CPU to exist — the Z80, the 6502, and so many others appeared in the years that followed — the impact that it had on the world of computing is truly mind-boggling.

And the company that did all the initial design — Computer Terminal Corporation — didn’t see a penny for it. They, literally, gave it to Intel. And, boy-oh-boy, did Intel run with it.

Because it deserves to be marveled at… here is a detailed die shot of the Intel 8008. Ain’t it purdy?

Die photo of the original 8008 — thanks to Ken Sherriff for this amazing shot.

So, there you have it.

The world’s first 8-Bit CPU… really wasn’t the world’s first. Texas Instruments beat Intel by a few months… but they never went into production.

Historical Tidbit: Even though the TMX-1795 never went into production, Texas Instruments filed several patents on it over the course of the next few years. And, being as both the TMX-1795 and the 8008 were based on the exact same system (the Datapoint 2200)… this laid the groundwork for lawsuits galore.

And Intel isn’t really the company responsible for creating the instruction set and architectural design of the 8008 — which formed the basis of almost their entire processor line for decades. That honor goes to Computer Terminal Corporation… of San Antonio, Texas.

Wild, right?

Explains why this poor lady, from an original Datapoint 2200 advertisement, has the "I just got forced into giving away all of our hard work to Intel" look.

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Red Hat Whistleblowers say Company Ignores Ethics Violations
... when those violations are in line with racist or sexist policies.

Over the last several months, we've learned a great deal about the racist and sexist policies within Red Hat (the largest Linux company on Earth) and parent company, IBM.

This includes corporate training which teaches that "Whiteness" is a bad thing, racist "pledge" systems, skin-color based hiring quotas, and more.

Now, thanks to whistleblowers continuing to provide leaked material to The Lunduke Journal, we have learned that Red Hat ignores reports of corporate ethics violations... when those violations are in line with Red Hat's established racist policies.

Red Hat's Ethics Violation Reporting System

Red Hat provides only one system which allows employees to anonymously report ethics violations: The "Red Hat Ethics Hotline" provided by a company named Convercent.

The Red Hat "Ethics Hotline"

The "Ethics Hotline" includes this note from Tom Savage, Senior Vice President (and General Counsel) for Red Hat:  

"Whether you speak up through this Compliance and Ethics Hotline or another reporting channel, take comfort in knowing, as outlined in the Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, that Red Hat is committed to protecting associates from retaliation."

From the Red Hat "Ethics Hotline"

However, this statement from Red Hat's General Counsel appears to be untrue.  Or, at the very least, Red Hat employees do not believe it to be true.  As reported by whistleblowers within Red Hat, it is felt that making purely anonymous complaints is the "only safe way of reporting politically sensitive topics."

Ethics Violations Ignored by Red Hat

According to one whistleblower, reports of ethics violations are "always ignored".

Another whistleblower submitted multiple reports using the "Ethics Hotline", only to have each one "Closed" with no details or resolution of any kind.  Reports were closed "suddenly, with no notice or explanation or marking."

The following is a screenshot of one such ethics violation report, using the "Ethics Hotline", which has been "Closed" with no messages, attachments, or response of any kind.

Source: Red Hat Whistleblower

You'll note that this ethics violation report deals directly with race and sex-based discrimination within the hiring and career advancement programs at Red Hat.  A topic which, regardless of outcome, is the type of potential "ethics violation" (with severe legal consequences) which any company would want to take seriously.

Yet this "Ethics Hotline" report -- along with several others provided to The Lunduke Journal for review -- was marked as "Closed" with not so much as a note explaining why.

Whether it be the fault of the system being used, an issue with Red Hat corporate policy, or actions of the individuals responsible for reviewing these violation reports... one Red Hat whistleblower says "there is no real way for employees to report ethics violations."

What we know:

  • Red Hat (along with parent company, IBM) has multiple racist & sexist programs -- of, at best, dubious legality -- many of which would constitute clear ethics violations.
  • While Red Hat provides a mechanism for employees to report such ethics violations, those reports (at least when dealing with the racist & sexist actions of individiuals within the company, and corporate policy) are ignored and "Closed" without a stated reason.
  • Red Hat employees feel "unsafe" reporting such violations in any non-anonymous way.

These facts paint a highly unsavory picture of Red Hat's commitement (or lack thereof) to behaving and doing business in an ethical way.

As always, The Lunduke Journal invites Red Hat (and parent company, IBM) to respond if any information within this report is inaccurate in any way.  The Lunduke Journal prides itself on accurate, factual reporting and will publish corrections, comments, or clarifications provided by the company.


 

Become a Tech Whistleblower

The Lunduke Journal takes the privacy of whistleblowers incredibly seriously -- we have a firm rule of never revealing any information regarding the identidy of whistleblowers, and all leaked material is meticulously researched and scrubbed (with all possibly identifying metadata removed) prior to publication.

Do you work in the Tech industry?  Have you witnessed concerning activity, which you feel should see the light of day, but don't know how to get the information out there anonymously?  This article will walk you through the process, step by step:

Thank you to all of the brave whistleblowers who have already come forward.  As they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

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Lunduke's Random Linux Marketing Anecdotes

My days working in Linux marketing were... interesting.  It was a truly unique experience.  Wouldn't trade a moment of it (even the less than enjoyable parts).

Because I am feeling nostalgic, here's a few little tidbits from my time selling Linux-y stuff for Linux-y companies.

SUSE - The Oldest Linux Company

I spent roughly 4 years at SUSE as -- I kid you not -- often the only person, in the entire marketing department, who actually used Linux.  As such I tended to be the guy that every random marketing idea needed to be run by... you know, just to make sure SUSE didn't end up saying something that insulted Linux-folk.

Seriously.  It was crazy.  At one point the lady who ran all of marketing -- for the oldest Linux company -- had almost no clue, whatsoever, about how to even begin using Linux.  Or what the history of Linux was.  Or what the major projects were.

It was like if the head of marketing for Coca Cola had never tasted Coke before... and refused to even take a sip.  And was only vaguely aware that it was even a liquid.

Just the same... most of the time it was pretty fun.  I kept churning out ad campaigns that were some of the biggest successes SUSE had ever had -- resulting in SUSE numbers shooting up -- and, as a result, they gave me a lot of freedom.

Of the many varied and weird marketing projects I put together at SUSE... my favorite was a music video parody of "Uptown Funk"... about Linux kernel patching.

"Uptime Funk" was a fun one.  We hired a great group of musicians and dancers -- down in Provo, Utah -- who did a stellar job.  Our cinematographer and editor was absolutely amazing.

And, most importantly, nobody messed with my lyrics.  Which made me happy.  🤣

I tell ya.  The executives almost always messed with my words.

I remember, one time I wrote a parody of Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling".  I turned it into a song about a guy eating pie a dinner... singing about how he runs Linux on absolutely everything in his house.  He compulsively installs Linux on everything.  If it has electricity, he installs Linux on it.  And then he installs Linux inside of VMs on Linux.  And he uses a remote X session to log into his crock pot.

It was glorious.  And ridiculous.

Then the powers that be swooped in.  Non-Linux-understanding marketing people got assigned to "revise" the lyrics with the explicit instruction of making it "more marketing-y".

The result was "Can't Stop the SUSE".  Which, annoyingly, still lists me as having written the lyrics.  I'll let you decide how I feel about that song.

Near the end of my tenure at SUSE, things weren't quite as fun.  At one point I recall getting into an argument with the VP of Marketing... who told me, point blank, to never use the phrase "Free Software" and to stop talking about "Open Source" so much.

Seriously.  Things were going in a weird direction.

Then I left, SUSE got a new CEO, and everything went to heck in a handbasket for the oldest Linux company.

Purism - The Linux Hardware Guys

I spent a short spell as the Director of Marketing at Purism -- a company which sells laptops and whatnot pre-loaded with Linux.  While I ended up leaving the company due to some disagreements over how the business was run... there were definitely some fun moments.

For the launch of Librem One (Purism's effort to make a privacy-respecting online service), we created a commercial.  It's just a wee bit naughty.  No swearing but... definitely a lot of innuendo.  😎

You might recognize the voice at the end.

Ultimately, the Librem One service had some success -- but was severely bogged down by technical issues, and code licensing conflicts, early on.  Which was a bummer.  Really hobbled what could have otherwise been a fun product launch.

But, heck, the commercial was fun.  So it had that going for it!

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Red Hat vs Hyprland: Silencing political "undesirables"
Beneath the drama: The abuse of corporate power, extremist politics, bullying, & censorship of "wrongthink".

The Open Source world is no stranger to drama.  Heck, if it's a day that ends in "Ay!", there's likely some random, usually overblown, drama happening in one Open Source organization or another.

But, sometimes, within that drama, there exists a bigger story.

Such is the case with "Red Hat vs Hyprland".

Within this drama there lies a tale of extremist poltiics, abuse of corporate power, and silencing of political "undesirables".  The things we learn here -- burried beneath the layers of drama -- are deeply disturbing, with significant ramifications for the entire Open Source industry.

Cutting through the noise

As with all drama, there's a lot of finger pointing.  And... noise.  So much noise.  Let's cut through all of that and get right to the facts.

The basic facts of this event:

  1. The core developer behind Hyprland (a tiling Linux window manager which has gained significant traction), a man who goes by the name "Vaxry", has been banned from any involvement in the Freedesktop project (an umbrella project covering Xorg, Wayland, and many other core Linux Desktop projects).
  2. This ban means that Vaxry will not be allowed to report bugs or submit code patches to Freedesktop projects -- often directly relevant to his own work on the Hyprland window manager.
  3. The ban (affecting Freedesktop) was enacted by a Red Hat representative (using a RedHat.com email address), based on a perceived 2 year old "Code of Conduct Violation" on a Hyprland chat server.
  4. Red Hat, Freedesktop, and Hyprland are all separate organizations.

As with any drama, there's a great deal of other information out there -- along with frenzied onlookers yelling about it from the sidelines -- but those are the core actions and facts.

The key takeaway: A representative from Red Hat was using corporate power to force a person out of other (read: non-Red Hat) organizations.  For reasons not related to Red Hat.  Nor related to the organization the person was being banned from.

In essence, Red Hat flexing it's muscle -- bending large portions of the Open Source world to do it's bidding.

By itself, that's bad enough.  But it gets worse.  Much worse.

What was the "violation"?

In order to understand how truly disturbing this issue is, we need to know a few additional details.  Starting with the initial "Code of Conduct Violation".

Back in 2022 -- yes, two years ago -- on the Discord chat server for the Hyprland window manager project, a man who identified as "Trans" listed his preferred prouns as "she/her".

A moderator on that Hyprland chat server changed that "Trans" person's pronouns to list as "who/cares".

Screenshot of the "Code of Conduct Violation".

Flash forward to 2024, and this "who/cares" action comes to the attention of another man who identifies as "Trans".  An employee of Red Hat named Lyude Paul.

To give you an idea of the motivations of the actions which follow: Lyude Paul has a publicly stated goal of "bullying" anyone who does not adequately show respect to "Trans" issues, as shown in his social media posts.

Source: Lyude Paul's Mastodon account.

Lyude Paul also promotes the idea that "right-wing people are not welcomed" in organizations.

Source: Lyude Paul's Mastodon account.

As Lyude Paul has a stated objective of "bullying" people -- making sure they are "not welcomed" -- if they do not profess the correct political ideals (or do not support "Trans" activism in the proper way)... it is not entirely surprising that this gentleman would use his position at Red Hat to ban those he disagrees with.

And that is exactly what happened.

Source: Lyude Paul's official email from RedHat.com.

Lyude Paul -- using his Red Hat email address -- informed Vaxry (the lead developer of Hyprland -- the project where the "who/cares" chat server incident occurred) that he was now banned from the entirety of the Freedesktop project and organization.

An important note: When a person sends an email from their corporate email account, they are acting on behalf of the corporation.  That is a hard and fast rule that has been in place since... well... forever.  Likewise Red Hat has not distanced itself from these actions in the least.

You can read the full emails, from Lyude Paul / Red Hat, as published by Vaxry.

The Red Hat Problem

This is an example of Red Hat, a corporation with a wild history of discrimination and censorship, using their corporate power (and strength within the Linux and Open Source world) to bully and silence those they politically disagree with.

Red Hat could condemn these actions (which were done in Red Hat's name) by their employee.  They have not done so.

None of this should be terribly surprising, considering what we already know about the IBM subsidiary.  They have a history of taking extreme political stances... and they actively discriminate against employees who deviate from their allowed, always extremely politically Leftist, ideals.

Considering Red Hat's historical stances and actions, it is no surprise that an employee of Red Hat would be able to use the corporate power of Red Hat to bully others who possessed the wrong ideas (as was the publicly stated objective of Lyude Paul).

A singular bit of drama... and a trend.

This particular incident has elicited strong reactions -- and has grabbed the attention of many across the Linux and Open Source industry.  Lots of drama.  Lots of opportunities to quote people who are making big, outlandish statements.

And most of that drama is little more than distracting fluff.

But the core -- the facts -- are truly disturbing.  And, once again, Red Hat finds itself at the center of another story where people are being discriminated against.

A few closing thoughts.

  • If this sort of bullying, censorship, and blacklisting of those with the "wrong politics" is allowed to continue... it will get worse.
  • Lyude Paul is guilty of far more extreme "Code of Conduct" violations than Vaxry -- as is shown in the screenshots above.  Yet Lyude Paul has not been banned, censored, or punished in any way by Red Hat or Freedesktop.
  • It would appear fairly obvious that the "Code of Conduct", at least in this case, is being used as a weapon to selectively harm specific individuals.
  • Considering Red Hat / IBM's history and dedication to discriminating against specific groups, it seems a fair assumption that these actions are not only allowed but encouraged by corporate leadership.  Should that not be the case, The Lunduke Journal encourages Red Hat and IBM to make a statement regarding it.  If such a statement is made, The Lunduke Journal will publish it in full.
  • Will Open Source organizations -- such as Freedesktop -- allow these sorts of discriminatory actions to continue?
  • Should Freedesktop, and others, continue allowing this type of discrimination... what result will that have on existing Open Source projects and users of those projects?

The Lunduke Journal has reached out to representatives from IBM and Red Hat for comment.  As of the time of publication The Lunduke Journal has received no response.

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