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
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"
- Atiq Raza, "Technology Constraints on VLSI Processor Implementation"
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.