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The 386 chip

Jorn Barger October 2002

The 80386 was the first of the IA-32 (Intel Architecture, 32-bit) CPUs that include the 80486 and Penttium.


80386 [full-size] [pic source]

275,000 transistors; .97cm x .97cm = .38" x .38" [cite]


1954? John H Crawford born in Philadelphia [bio]
1975: Crawford graduates from Brown
1977: Crawford master's degree from U of North Carolina
1977: Crawford joins Intel [bio] [Intel 1978 pic]

[JC pic] [pic source] (music director for Crossroads Bible Church in San Jose: cite)

[team heads] [pic source]
Riz Haq, Jan William (Willem) L. Prak, Gene Hill, Patrick/Pat process, John H Crawford, David/Dave Vannier

1982: Crawford leads 386-backup project [cite] More info: Gene Hill, Pat Gelsinger, Jim Slager (387)

"We were supposed to be a stopgap, quick-to-market product... As time went on we pretty much surpassed everyone's expectations-- which is easy to do when you're building up from zero."

1984: 18Apr: first GooJa rumor [1st 99 mentions]

1985: summer: prototype 386s circulated to IBM, MS, et al [cite]

286-delays make buyers wary [Gates-interview]

1985: 17Oct: 80386 chip debuts: up to 33MHz, 4 GB ram, 64 terabytes vm [cite] (renamed 'DX' in 1988 when SX added)

silicon gate CMOS process with 1.5micron linewidths, 10 mask layers, 1 polysilicon layer, 2 metal layers, 104mm2 die [cite]

1986: IBM suicidally rejects 386 for PS/2 series, favoring 286 [cite]

1986: Sep: Compaq debuts 1st 386 box (16MHz DeskPro 386) [info] [award] Gates takes credit [interview]

1986: Nov: Andy Tanenbaum [GooJa] rewrites Unix from scratch for 386, released by Prentice-Hall as $150 Minix [netnews]

1987: 16Jan: Usenet newsgroup comp.os.minix

1987: Crawford and Gelsinger's 'Programming the 80386' [Amazon]

"still the best book I've ever seen on the x86 architecture" --Linus Torvalds, Feb 2001

1987: SCO Xenix 386
1987: Oct: Compaq Portable 386
1988: 16Jun: 80386 SX (24-bit address bus limits real memory to 16Mb) [cite]

1988: video: "Design and Development of the Intel 80386 Microprocessor" Gene Hill; University Video Communications [cite]

1989: SCO UNIX System V/386

1990: 22May: Windows 3.0, supports 386 [cite]

1990: Fred van Kempen adds Posix-compatibility to Minix [GooJa search]

1991: Jan: 21yo Linus Torvalds buys 33MHz 386sx PC w/40Mb drive to play 'Prince of Persia' (hardware prices dropping dramatically), begins hacking Linux in April [timeline]

Jan 1991 to Jul 1992: Dr Dobbs publishes series by William Jolitz on porting BSD to 386 [bib]

1991: 17Mar: William and Lynne Jolitz release version 0.0 of 386 port of BSD (386BSD released as free) [cite] more [Salon-2pg] [tech]

1991: 1st of AMD's AM386 clones [info] more

1991: 25Aug: Linus solicits os-suggestions from comp.os.minix [thread]

"I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready. I'd like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons) among other things).

I've currently ported bash(1.08) and gcc(1.40), and things seem to work. This implies that I'll get something practical within a few months [...] Yes - it's free of any minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs. It is NOT protable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that's all I have :-(.

[...] It's mostly in C, but most people wouldn't call what I write C. It uses every conceivable feature of the 386 I could find, as it was also a project to teach me about the 386. As already mentioned, it uses a MMU, for both paging (not to disk yet) and segmentation. It's the segmentation that makes it REALLY 386 dependent (every task has a 64Mb segment for code & data - max 64 tasks in 4Gb. Anybody who needs more than 64Mb/task - tough cookies). [...] Some of my "C"-files (specifically mm.c) are almost as much assembler as C. [...] Unlike minix, I also happen to LIKE interrupts, so interrupts are handled without trying to hide the reason behind them"

1991: Sep: Linux 0.01 (64kb)
1991: 05Oct: Linux 0.02, first use of name on netnews [comp.os.minix]

1991: 01Dec: Bill Jolitz splits from BSDI over open-source issues, destroying his work there [cite]

1991: Dec: Linux 0.11 now 'standalone'
1992: Jan: Linux 0.12 = 0.9 (12k lines?)
1992: BSDI releases beta of BSD/386 [cite]
1992: Mar: Linux 0.95
1992: 14Jul: 386BSD 0.1, eventually gets downloaded 250k times (18 month lag before 1.0, giving advantage to Linux)

1992: support of 386/BSD taken over by NetBSD [cite] FreeBSD project turns NetBSD into distro

1993: Dec: 386/BSD 1.0; FreeBSD 1.0 based on 386BSD
1994? OpenBSD spins off from NetBSD [cite]
1994: May: FreeBSD 1.1
1995: Jan: FreeBSD 2.0
1995: Mar: Linux kernel 1.2 [cite] (2Mb)

lecture slides




reference, ditto

instruction set, ditto, ditto, overview

memory addressing


protected mode

tutorial, ditto


8086 family


analysis, overview

386 pix pdf manuals





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Timelines: Microsoft 80386
Early Unix-like OSes for micros timeline
Internet Timelines Project: XML-theory
Regular expressions resources
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FirstCut parser design ideas

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