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Monday, November 22, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 65

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The Geek Translator is new feature of The Daily Cougar Online. It will appear on Wednesdays.

What processor will be in your next computer?

The Geek Translator

By Andrew Hannan

If you have been watching television, you've seen the Intel Inside ads with people running around in colorful suits saying their processors speed up the Internet (which, by the way, is a big fat lie). Your head is probably ringing with that chime that plays as the logo swirls around into an identifiable shape. So why would you buy anything else?

That is not an easy question to answer to someone who thinks of computers as being like a toaster - many companies make them, but they all make toast. Keep in mind, however, that some toasters will burn the bread, themselves and your house, so most people tend to buy one with a big name. At least with a big name you can sue the company for burning down your house when all you wanted was that blueberry bagel lightly toasted.

Getting past the hype is not easy, especially if you do not read updates in the computer industry. Hell, if you are busy with college and having a life, you don't have time for reading. Luckily, you have me, one of those sad individuals who only uses his TV for playing video games. I have a lot more free time to read, and I think computer industry stuff is cool.

That's how I know Intel created those ads to amaze and fill your heads with fluff. The company made a name for itself like Kellogg's, and people gobbled it up.

Wars are going on while you sleep, people are making strategic plans to kill one another, and the fighting is over your disposable income.

Intel and Advanced Micro Devices have been raging a war for nearly 10 years, and there is no sign it is going to end anytime soon. But this is a good thing.

Intel and AMD have been battling since the 386 days, before Intel introduced the Pentium name (for those of you that do not know, the Pentium II/IIIs that you see today could be called 686s). The battle has been close, but AMD has always come to the field late. Though coming out late hurt its sales and kept profits down, AMD usually had a better product.

When Intel moved up to the Pentium line of processors, technically 586s, AMD competed with the K6. It was late to market as usual, but not a better product.

AMD decided to redesign the K6 and made the K6-2, a processor you might have seen or even used. It held up well against the P2s and low end P3s.

We now have the newly released AMD Athlon, which would be equivalent to a 786 if Intel already had one. AMD finally beat Intel to the market with a product, and it is better - a lot better! The Athlon has already been available at 700 MHz, and testing has proven the Athlon processor to be faster at 700 MHz than anything Intel has.

Intel, not being one to sit idle, has been working on the P3 line and announced these new processors Oct. 25. This "new" line of chips is only slightly different from the chips that have been on the market. The new line is being made with a smaller processor and are available at higher speeds, up to 700 megahertz. The processors are still called Pentium IIIs, but the computers are slightly better, and in another month, there will be a different line of P3s being made using a copper process.

For the holiday buying season this year many people are going to be very disappointed if they buy Intel. Why? Three lines of P3s will be out -- the copper process, the faster ones announce Oct. 25 and the ones that remain on the shelf. In itself, this is not a problem because each version of the Pentium III does have a performance difference over the other. The problem is that Intel computer manufacturers and retailers have decided not to worry about telling customers the difference between these three lines of chips, and there are some serious differences.

AMD is planning on having its line of chips up to 900 MHz by Christmas and hit the 1 gigahertz later in 2000.

With AMD offering affordable and more powerful processors this Christmas, we might actually see Intel take a serious hit to its sales, something it has not felt in years.

I have tried to keep as much of the technical mumbo-jumbo out of this article as possible, but there is more than central processing units in a computer. To run a whole computer, you need a CPU, but you also need another chip to handle all the communications between the different parts of the computer.

Intel and AMD have designed new control chips to be able to handle new features they are implementing now and will be in the near future.

AMD's chip is used only in Athlon systems and is the only thing that will even work with them. It is fast, very fast, and extremely well designed since it is based off of a chip design used in very high-end workstations and servers.

Intel's chip was supposed to be good, but about two weeks before release it announced a delay. Turns out that through an engineering snafu the controller chip cannot handle more than two memory modules at a time, but all the boards had three. The instability introduced made them unusable, unless you like to reboot your computer every five minutes.

If you are planning on buying a system anytime soon, you might want to think again before buying that system with the annoying chime.


Hannan a junior MIS major,
who wishes he had bought AMD stock three months ago,
can be reached at whisper_40@hotmail.com.
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