Fable: The Company Which Tried To be Like Intel

In 1983 there was a semiconductor company which was making memories and microprocessors.  In other words it was competing with Intel. And it was a financial mess.

The semiconductor company was a subsidiary of a big electronics company which had decided to get rid of it. However the CEO of the parent decided to give the semiconductor company one last chance and looked around for a CEO to fix it.

The new CEO came in and found that a group within the company had found a whole new way of doing modems.


He decided to focus the whole company on modems, and the company became a big success.


Moral: Play to your strengths



  1. You are welcome! My pleasure. By the way, Rockwell is one of my favorite companies of all time. -Bill

  2. Thnk you very much indeed for setting that straight, Bill, it’s extremely good of you to write in – very much appreciated

  3. I licensed Rockwell and many other companies on the 65C02 and 65C816 microprocessor technology. Steve and Sophie (then Roger) Wilson visited me in my Mesa Arizona offices in the fall of 1983. They actually wanted me to design a 32-bit microprocessor and essentially wanted me to abandone my 16-bit design. They may have known Woz came back to Apple to get involved in the design of what became the Apple IIgs, When I refused to design a 32-bit version they were not happy and decided to design their own which eventually became the ARM microprocessor and company we know today. The ARM company scaled my business model as well and will eventually defeat Intel because they not only have a better technology but also a better business model. Intel’s advances in transistor technology will also enhance ARM processors. All the Best, -Bill

  4. Hi Guys, Rockwell was a licensee of mine and used the 6502 and 65C02 in their modems. Rockwell also got Ricoh started in support of Nintendo to create the Nintendo and Super Nintendo with my W65C816 microprocessor technology. Steve Furber and Sophie (Roger then) Wilson visited me in the fall of 1983. They actually wanted a 32-bit processor and knew at some level that Woz came back to Apple to do the Apple IIgs, Steve and Sophie’s interest was to leapfrog Apple with a 32-bit system. I wanted to complete what I had started and they didn’t want to wait for me to start the 32-bit version so they left upset with my choice and decided that they could do the design themselves in Cambridge. Being upset can be inspiring as it was to them I guess. Eventually they scaled my business model when the Advanced RISC Machine Company was formed and went public. The market cap as I recall was $10B, awesome! Prudential Bache wanted to take WDC public and we discussed things on Gold Street one day in, I believe, 1985 or so. My comment at the time and remains, “You don’t know what I am doing and I certainly don’t know what you are doing. I don’t want to go public because it wuld destroy my happiness and pursuit therof!” I have always remained the sole (soul) stockholder of The WDC. I should note that I love that ARM is challenging Intel for microprocessor supremacy. They have a superior business model and superior technology. Also, I have recommended ARM processors to my licensees such as Ricoh when they asked about my plans for 32-bit. I now have a superior technology beyond RISC and CISC that ARM licensees and others will have to consider in time! As I would say to Sophie today, “you go girl”! Hey are we having fun yet? 🙂 Will, thanks for forwarding the link to me. All the Best, -Bill

  5. That is always possible, Fred, it’s difficult to forget what you know when working on something similar – and in those days it wasn’t even illegal to borrow from prior work.

  6. The ARM1 was not a 6502, however given the requirement to port code to the new CPU platform from a legacy 6502 code base , could some aspects of the new CPU architecture have been “inspired” by the 6502 ? Well, possibly …

  7. I htink you may be a trifle adrift there, [Anonymous], because when Acorn wanted a 16-bit processor it sent Steve Furber and Sophie Wilson over to the Western Design Centre to see if the WDC had a 16-bit processor successor to the 6502. It was because the WDC wasn’t going to have one in time that Furber and Wilson set about designing their own 16-bit processor which became the first ARM.

  8. Well whoever you credit, the 6502 architecture was developed by Acorn into the ARM processor, which is certainly giving Intel serious competition.

  9. Surely Rockwell can’t claim credit for the 6502, Mike, that came out of Bill Mensch’s Western Design Centre

  10. Actually even in 1983 Rockwell was still beating Intel in microprocessors with the IBM PC still a low volume item for businesses whereas Rockwell’s 6502 (and all the peripherals) dominated most home computers (Apple II, BBC Micro and so on).
    Of course this all went belly up that Christmas when supply exceeded demand.

  11. Yes indeed, Fred, Rockwell it was

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