Pentium Flaw Essay

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Unit 5 Analysis 1: The Pentium Flaw In 1994, an uproar about Intel’s Pentium microprocessor chip waved across the computer community. Unlike its predecessors, the Intel Pentium chipped included a floating- point unit (FPU), also known as a math coprocessor. The floating- point unit enabled the chip how to divide by using integer arithmetic. These instructions were built into the Pentium chip. As a result of doing so, this allowed the chip to work faster in calculating more intense, complex numbers (Janeba, 1995). Errors were later found in the FPU instructions for division; incorrectly dividing certain floating numbers. Discovered but not reported by Intel during the early production of the chip caused negative publicity for the company. In the summer/fall of 1994, Dr. Thomas Nicely was computing the sum of the reciprocals of a large collection of prime numbers and noticed a difference between two sets of numbers (Janeba, 1995). By double checking his work, he found that the results differed significantly from theoretical values. An example of this is: 4195835/3145727, discovered by Tim Coe of Vitesse Semiconductors. The correct value is 1.33382 to 6 sig. figs, while the flawed Pentium's floating-point unit computed 1.33374 to 6 sig figs, a relative error of 0.006% (Janeba, 1995). In October 1994, Dr. Nicely contacted Intel support to report the flaw found within their Pentium chip. Due to Intel’s lack of responsibility into addressing and correcting the flaw, Dr. Nicely decided to send an email to several people addressing his discovery of the Pentium “bug”. The email spreads quickly among the computer/ Internet community, one of those who received it was Richard Smith, president of Phar Lap software in Cambridge, MA (Emery, 1996). Phar Lap’s programmers test the error and verified the flaw. This causes Smith to forward Dr. Nicely’s email to Microsoft,

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