Nt1110 – Unit 5 Analysis 1: Pentium Flaw

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1. Search the Internet for information about the Pentium microprocessor flaw, using keywords such as “Pentium microprocessor flaw.” 2. Determine the nature of the Pentium flaw, how it was discovered, when it was discovered, and Intel’s response to the flaw. The Intel Pentium microprocessor was introduced March 1993 and was hugely popular among consumers because of its cheap price and decent performance. Unfortunately, the early versions of these microprocessors had a flaw within the floating point unit (also called a math coprocessor). This caused the Pentium's FPU to incorrectly divide certain floating-point numbers. Because only certain numbers divide incorrectly and Intel assumed that many users would never encounter the division error, the company decided to keep the issue quiet and fix the problem in updates to the chip. Thomas Nicely, a math professor at Lynchburg College, discovered the error however, and after sending his findings to Intel with no response, he posted his findings on the Internet, where others confirmed his theories. Professor Nicely discovered this issue in June of 1994 but was unable to eliminate other factors until October of 1994. He reported the problem to Intel and they admitted that they were aware of the bug since May of 1994. When Intel finally announced the bug, they originally said that they would only replace chips for users that require high-accuracy calculations, but when IBM publically refused to sell computers with faulty chips, Intel offered to replace all flawed Pentium processors. Because Intel chose to keep the flaw quiet, and because they originally refused to recall the product, they caused a great public outcry. Their mistakes also ended up costing them over $475 million and damaged their image. Intel now currently post all flaws and bugs that they find in their products in order to avoid another catastrophe

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