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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | The Processor | Processor Architecture and Operation | Internal Processor Interfaces and Operation | Processor Instruction Sets ]

IA-64: The End of x86?

Who was it who said "All good things must come to an end"? While the x86 instruction set has served the PC well, it has now become a hindrance to its progress as well. The need to do translation and emulation on processors with internal RISC cores in order to improve performance shows this. It is growing increasingly difficult to adapt an instruction set that was invented in the early 80s to the needs of turn-of-the-century computing.

At some point, additions and extensions to the aging architecture must be abandoned and a new one begun from scratch. Intel and Hewlett Packard have undertaken this task with the new architecture termed IA-64. This will be a 64-bit processor that uses a new instruction set, built from the ground up to increase performance to the next level. It is scheduled to debut on the Intel processor code-named Merced and also sometimes called the "P7", and will represent the seventh generation of PC processors.

Note: Despite the fresh start, the new processor will still also handle the x86 instruction set, presumably using a form of hardware translation. Backward compatibility continues to be a dominant factor in the design of hardware and software!

Next: Processor Modes

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