Pentium Flaw

In: Computers and Technology

Submitted By terryraulerson
Words 503
Pages 3
The microprocessor is the heart of a personal computer and controls all of the operations and calculations that take place. A flaw in the Pentium was especially important, since at that time it was the microprocessor used in 80% of the personal computers produced worldwide.

Apparently, flaws in a complicated integrated circuit such as the pentium are not uncommon. Most of these flaws cant be detected by the user and do not affect the operation of the computer. The flaw that was discovered in 1994 was different. It caused wrong answers when performing double-precision arithmetic, a very common computer operation. The flaw was easily detected by computer users. In fact, it was first noticed when a university researcher noticed that the results of some calculations he was performing using his computer were incorrect. This particular flaw was in the floating point unit (FPU) and caused a wrong answer when double-precision arithmetic was performed.

A standard test was widely published to determine whether a user’s microprocessor was flawed. Using spreadsheet software, the user was able to take the number 4,195,835, multiply it by 3,145,727, and then divide that result by 3,145,727. In basic math, when a number is multiplied and then divided by the same number, the result should be the original number. In this example, the result should be 4,195,835 but with the flawed FPU, the result of the calculation was 4,195,579.

Intel’s first response was that to deny that there was a problem with the chip. When it became clear that this assertion was not accurate, Intel switched its policy and stated that although there was indeed a defect in the chip, the defect was insignificant and most of the users would never even notice it. The chip would be replaced for free only for users who could demonstrate that they needed an unflawed version. Of course, this approach did not…...

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