Fable: The Jolly Jape
20 years ago a bunch of TI-ers came up with a jolly jape.
They realised that, in the early days of Intel, its founding CEO Bob Noyce, in order to get second sources to give Intel’s products market credibility, licensed a number of other chip companies’ fabs to make Intel chips.
Such fabs were at TI, Mostek (owned in the 90s by ST) and IBM.
The jolly jape was devised after Intel had gone single-source on the 386 and all subsequent x86 processors, and x86 had become the Jewel in the Crown of the semiconductor industry.
The jolly jape entailed doing a ‘clean-room’ design of an x86 processor, by which was meant a design which replicated the functionality of the chip without any replication of its circuitry.
The company made pin-compatible 386, 486 and 586 class processors and its best chip was its 686 which out-performed its Intel equivalent.
But it had trouble with its fab partners, ran into financial problems and was eventually sold to National which sold it to VIA Technologies.
MORAL: Success takes more than a good idea.