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i4004 with grey traces
AMD K6 black top
NexGen Nx686
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NexGen Nx586 - A promising start-up

Introduction date
Introduction speed
Maximum speed
Transistor count
Manufacturing process

: NexGen
: March 1994
: PR75 (70 Mhz)
: PR120 (111 Mhz)
: 2x 16 Kb Level 1
: 3.5 million
: 0.50 & 0.44 micron

A promising start-up

NexGen Inc. was founded in 1986 by Thampy Thomas and Harold "Mac" McFarland. Mr. Thomas previously worked for Elxsi, a company that manufactured minicomputers based on the Elxsi processor. At Elxsi Mr. Thomas had worked with Harold "Mac" McFarland, and the two made a plan to develop a 68000 compatible processor using mainframe 'out of order' techniques.

The new start-up company was funded by venture capital investors, among others Kliener Perkins. Further funding came from Compaq, ASCII, Yamaha and Olivetti. NexGen also worked closely with HP and Fujitsu to get access to much needed technologies.

At first a 68000 compatible design was envisioned. Both Thomas and McFarland had knowledge in this field. When they started working on their processor there wasn't a public 386 specification. However, they realized that from a marketing viewpoint they would have to change their plans and emulate the 386. When they got the specifications for the 386 they changed their plans.

For three years the newly established CPU company worked in silence on their highly advanced design. Then on the IEEE Computer Society International Conference of 1989 (COMPCON 89) three papers were published :

- Thampy Thomas, "A Single Cyce VLSI CISC-Based Workstation: System Overview and Performance Characteristics". COMPCON 89
- David R. Stiles, Harold L. McFarland, "Pipeline Control for a Single Cycle VLSI Implementation of a Complex Instruction Set Computer" COMPCON 89
- Atiq Raza, "Technology Constraints on VLSI Processor Implementation" COMPCON 89

These papers were the first publications from NexGen about what they were working on. NexGen was working on a design for a super scalar, x86 compatible processor with out of order execution that could be used in SMP up to 4 CPU's! Any of these tasks would be more than enough for one company and NexGen tried to do these all at once. Logically the design team faced many problems and the design faced many delays.


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