Cyrix 5x86 and Cyrix 6x86: Gone But Not Forgotten

Avro Arrow

Posts: 2,204   +2,593
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I remember when these were out. I wanted to get one but they went belly-up before I could. Back then, tech didn't advance nearly as quickly as it does today and upgrades weren't done nearly as frequently. It was a joint venture between IBM and Texas Instruments. I wonder who ended up with the x86 licence because whoever has it could theoretically become a fourth player in the x86 market.
 
Still have various 486- & Pentium-(also the 60&66) systems stored/running at home. Total joy to use with old(er) software and CRTs.
Great article - the 5x86 was a beast.
 
I wonder who ended up with the x86 licence because whoever has it could theoretically become a fourth player in the x86 market.
China !
"The Zhaoxin joint venture processors, released from 2014, are based on the VIA Nano series." This is a joint venture between VIA Technologies and the Shanghai Municipal Government.[2] The company creates x86-compatible CPUs. They paid Via to use x86 and are coming out with NEW x86 chips with DDR5 and PCIe4, if they can get TSMC to make them!
 

Avro Arrow

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TechSpot Elite
China !
"The Zhaoxin joint venture processors, released from 2014, are based on the VIA Nano series." This is a joint venture between VIA Technologies and the Shanghai Municipal Government.[2] The company creates x86-compatible CPUs. They paid Via to use x86 and are coming out with NEW x86 chips with DDR5 and PCIe4, if they can get TSMC to make them!
China? I think that you've been watching too much Fox News.

You're right that VIA did buy most of what was left of Cyrix (I knew that but my memory isn't as good as it was 20 years ago...:laughing: ) but VIA isn't Chinese. It was originally American but moved its HQ to Taipei. Being an order of magnitude smaller than Intel and AMD made competitive R&D impossible and so VIA was relegated to embedded niche systems like ATMs and cash registers. VIA did partner with the Chinese government on their own x86 CPUs but the licence isn't China's, it's VIA's.

This is American-style corporate-industrial capitalism at its best. Without being big enough to compete in the PC market, VIA's x86 licence largely went unused. The Chinese government probably offered a crap-tonne of money (money that originally came from people like you and me who have purchased products made in China) for VIA to develop a CPU for their domestic use. Since VIA did legally own an x86 licence and only money matters in American-style capitalism, of course VIA jumped at the chance.

So no, China did NOT get the licence. What China did was contract a semiconductor corporation to design an x86 CPU for their specific use. China did NOT get VIA's licence.

Man, sometimes I wonder just how well people are programmed. The US corporate media has people yelling "China" today, "Iran" two years ago, "Russia" five years ago and ten years ago they were yelling "Terrorists".

Who's going to be your next boogeyman, India, Brazil, Canada? :laughing:
 

Lionvibez

Posts: 2,622   +2,383
Article brings back from fond memories. My first computer build was a 386 I remember also owning a cyrix machine back in like the pentium 1 days.
 

Mugsy

Posts: 752   +183
"The novel superscalar architecture allowed it to complete two instructions per clock."

Cyrix's greatest architectural claim to fame barely earned a single line in your retrospective.

This was the predecessor to "multi-threading" (and multi-core) CPU architecture. It's why Intel snapped up what was left of Cyrix as soon as they went bankrupt.
 

hwertz

Posts: 129   +68
I had one of the earlier Cyrix chips, the 486 one had 486 performance but only address pins for 16MB like a 386, this worked great until I got a VESA Local Bus video card and found out it mapped over like megs 10-12 or something of my system memory (I'd start X, load enough software and start having the code overwrite the video memory, then of course it's crash before long.) Upgrade to a socket 7 board then... I had a few Socket 7 ones, in Linux they were nothing special performance-wise but very good price for the performance they did have, up through about mid-range (where the Cyrix chips cut off), you could get an Intel chip or get a Cyrix with like twice the performance for the same cost, so I did that. I switched to AMD K5 ("PR75", they'd switched to performance ratings by then just like Cyrix..), a K6, and then a K6-2... I ran that 450mhz K6-2 a long time, the code GCC spit out REALLY agreed with whatever caches and pipelines that thing had, it ran about dead even with a 900mhz P3.

 

dsilvermane

Posts: 8   +4
This was such a nostalgic read. My second ever CPU was a Cyrix 6x86MX-PR2/233+. It had a whole 32MB RAM alongside a 1MB VGA card I salvaged from my previous system which had an Intel 486-DX4 and 16MB RAM. Those were the days...
 
National's purchase (not merger) of Cyrix was a bad deal all around. Cyrix stopped going after the higher end business, the SoC stuff failed to take off, and National's core business took a hit - they were an analog partner of Intel and had advance access to motherboard reference designs. After the purchase, Intel killed all access and crippled a large portion of National's high profit margin power management, audio, and thermal sensor sales into the PC sector.
 

Vanderlinde

Posts: 118   +81
Cyrix CPU's scored very well in 'businesss' related tasks, however when you put a game like Quake onto it, it suffered severely to unplayable games. They where however a great value, lots of these company's in the 286, 386 and 486 era used to reverse engineer intel all over the place, even AMD untill they start their own "Pentium" brand which is in latin, '5th'.

The Cyrix PR 233+ I had on a socket 7, ran at 166Mhz if I'm correct. It would overclock to 183Mhz with just a simple FSB increase, but 200Mhz was'nt stable. The heatsink / fan combination that ran these things was at the limit pretty much. Ive experimented with watercooling for the first time back then. Dont ask how I assembled, but I pretty much glued 2 hoses into a heatsink and covered the heatsink completely up with glue. It would have waterflow as driven by a simple aquarium pump but with no radiator.

Did'nt last a few days before the glue gave up and started to leak all over the place lol. From that point on I replaced it with a Slot A Athlon 600Mhz. Complete world of difference.
 
Let's not overlook one of the BIGGEST issues Cyrix had:
The IHS's on those chips were very concave!
'Hollow like a teaspoon!' was what I exclaimed after 1st putting a straight-edge on one.

Lapping the IHS (and equally bad HSFs of the time) and adding (unheard of at the time) thermal compound allowed one to run the processors at a frequency of around or above their PR rating #s.

This 'unleashed the beast'! :)
Also if you:
* Added 256 to 512kb of 15ns L2 cache to the cheap boards they came in.
(Remember all the fake L2 cache..?)
* Upped the FSB to 83.3MHz (to get frequencies up to the PR rating #)

Then they were well able to compete with the Intel P1's of the time. Even in gaming!
I recall trying to contact them to say as much, but to no avail.
Sad...

 

tesmith47

Posts: 7   +3
I was one of the poor folk back in those days, Cyrix low cost allowed me to get into computers. the game players / entertainment need for speed aspect of computers is what really killed cyrix
 

tesmith47

Posts: 7   +3
China? I think that you've been watching too much Fox News.

You're right that VIA did buy most of what was left of Cyrix (I knew that but my memory isn't as good as it was 20 years ago...:laughing: ) but VIA isn't Chinese. It was originally American but moved its HQ to Taipei. Being an order of magnitude smaller than Intel and AMD made competitive R&D impossible and so VIA was relegated to embedded niche systems like ATMs and cash registers. VIA did partner with the Chinese government on their own x86 CPUs but the licence isn't China's, it's VIA's.

This is American-style corporate-industrial capitalism at its best. Without being big enough to compete in the PC market, VIA's x86 licence largely went unused. The Chinese government probably offered a crap-tonne of money (money that originally came from people like you and me who have purchased products made in China) for VIA to develop a CPU for their domestic use. Since VIA did legally own an x86 licence and only money matters in American-style capitalism, of course VIA jumped at the chance.

So no, China did NOT get the licence. What China did was contract a semiconductor corporation to design an x86 CPU for their specific use. China did NOT get VIA's licence.

Man, sometimes I wonder just how well people are programmed. The US corporate media has people yelling "China" today, "Iran" two years ago, "Russia" five years ago and ten years ago they were yelling "Terrorists".

Who's going to be your next boogeyman, India, Brazil, Canada? :laughing:
actually our capitalist force us into buying china made stuff by holding our salary so low AND moving production of most stuff to china
 

Arbie

Posts: 363   +655
did it fail?
The PSU did, but what I'm referring to is that the PC had no expandability or upgradeability. So - having bought the bottom, I was stuck there. Making that even worse was that eMachines or maybe Cyrix had cut the actual clock speed from what the CPU was labeled as.

Except for the clock speed lie it had a legitimate market. My mistake was in relying on my experience with cars, where you could buy cheap and bolt on go-faster parts. Not the same thing with pre-built computers.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 2,204   +2,593
TechSpot Elite
actually our capitalist force us into buying china made stuff by holding our salary so low AND moving production of most stuff to china
I couldn't agree more. Wages have been stagnant for around 40 years and the way that they placated us in that time was selling us cheaper and cheaper crap. It used to be that if you bought a refrigerator, it would run forever but it cost more. The thing is, people were able to afford it. Now, they just throw their names on some imported item made in a sweatshop with slave labour. They don't care because they pocket even more loot than before and we're not suffering enough to really notice.

There was a time when Levi's actually made their jeans in the USA. I saw a pair of Calvin Klein khakis at Costco that were made in Mauritius. This is why I've never been a brand-bot. I know that it's all marketing BS. When I buy something, I ignore the brand-name and look at the specifications.

The best thing that this pandemic has done is show just how broken the capitalist system has become. The problem with capitalism has always been that the nature of competition is such that there's always a winner and at least one loser. Capitalism ends in monopoly or an oligopoly that has a few colluding players.

The whims of the market no longer control the corporations. The whims of the corporations now control the market because they've become so large and powerful that they can effectively lock out anyone from entering the market as a new competitor. That results in market stagnation and consumer acceptance of the status quo (since they have no choice). The same thing happens with labour because there are no new and dynamic companies in any extant sector that are looking for new talent and willing to pay for it.

If you're interested in seeing the shenanigans that these corporations like to pull, the CBC has two shows that are paragons of investigative journalism. They're called Marketplace and The Fifth Estate. Marketplace is made by CBC News and is more aimed at the ground-level between businesses and consumers. The Fifth Estate is a standalone show that produces documentaries revealing upper-echelon political and corporate corruption.

Here's Marketplace on YouTube:
CBC's Marketplace
Here's The Fifth Estate:
CBC's The Fifth Estate

Hours upon hours of great investigative journalism that will make you see the world more clearly. It's a shame that there are no equivalents to them in other countries (none that I could find anyway).
 
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tesmith47

Posts: 7   +3
I couldn't agree more. Wages have been stagnant for around 40 years and the way that they placated us in that time was selling us cheaper and cheaper crap. It used to be that if you bought a refrigerator, it would run forever but it cost more. The thing is, people were able to afford it. Now, they just throw their names on some imported item made in a sweatshop with slave labour. They don't care because they pocket even more loot than before and we're not suffering enough to really notice.

There was a time when Levi's actually made their jeans in the USA. I saw a pair of Calvin Klein khakis at Costco that were made in Mauritius. This is why I've never been a brand-*****. I know that it's all marketing BS. When I buy something, I ignore the brand-name and look at the specifications.

The best thing that this pandemic has done is show just how broken the capitalist system has become. The problem with capitalism has always been that the nature of competition is such that there's always a winner and at least one loser. Capitalism ends in monopoly or an oligopoly that has a few colluding players.

The whims of the market no longer control the corporations. The whims of the corporations now control the market because they've become so large and powerful that they can effectively lock out anyone from entering the market as a new competitor. That results in market stagnation and consumer acceptance of the status quo (since they have no choice). The same thing happens with labour because there are no new and dynamic companies in any extant sector that are looking for new talent and willing to pay for it.
capitalism is not broken, it is working just as designed, just a lot of us did not/ do not understand what the design is!!
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 2,204   +2,593
TechSpot Elite
capitalism is not broken, it is working just as designed, just a lot of us did not/ do not understand what the design is!!
The design is the eventual complete domination of the world's economy by the few. Corporations that are more powerful than actual governments are the result. Capitalism was designed to move the power of the people from the ballot box where it benefits the most people to the marketplace where it benefits the richest (and therefore, the fewest). It's a psychopath's dream come true.

All it needs is to be properly regulated but it's clear that most governments today are too corrupt to do so. The Nordic countries are the exception to this and while the French government is corrupt enough to do nothing, the French mindset of unity and the power of their labour unions means that they can shut the country down if they want to (and they have, several times).

Funny how a McDonald's employee in Denmark can start at $20USD per hour with 4 weeks vacation despite McDonald's paying FAR MORE corporate tax there than in the USA but somehow, McDonald's in the USA "can't afford" to do the same. Meanwhile, if McDonald's wasn't profitable in Denmark, they wouldn't be there so they're making plenty of money.

That's all you need to know about capitalism. It's fine when properly regulated but the difference between a "legitimate" business and a criminal empire is no longer about what they do but who they successfully pay off.
 

Nintenboy01

Posts: 214   +169
Like someone said before, an article on Transmeta would be nice. I remember seeing a lot of ads for cheap laptops with the Transmeta Crusoe processor back in the early to mid-2000s
 

Ojref

Posts: 19   +26
All these years later, and I still smack my forehead when I think back and remember how the company that broke the scene with one of the fastest x87 FPU drop-ins ended up completely ham-fisting the 6x86 with a sub-par FPU.