Playstation to Tesla, MIPS R2000 still going strong at 30

The MIPS R2000 microprocessor was launched in January 1986, thirty years ago this month.

This was the first commercially-available microprocessor chipset to implement the MIPS instruction set architecture and the first RISC (reduced instruction set computing) processor sold through a licensing business model.

It was the brainchild of Stanford University professor John Hennessy and the company he founded was MIPS Computer Systems.

Prof. John Hennessy inspecting the layout of MIPS R2000

Prof. John Hennessy inspecting the layout of MIPS R2000

The MIPS R2000 CPU was a 32-bit design based on the MIPS I architecture that competed with the then dominant CPUs, the Motorola 68000 and Intel 80386 microprocessors. The R2000 CPU reached speeds of up to 15MHz and measured 80mm2 in silicon area; the processor contained about 110,000 transistors.

In its bid to create a viable alternative to the more established CISC CPUs of Intel and Motorola, MIPS also faced competition from Berkeley RISC design, which was commercialised as the SPARC processor.

Early licensees included Toshiba, Philips, IDT and DEC (Digital).

In the 1990s MIPS processors were to be found in PCs, TV set-top boxes and games consoles such as the Sony Playstation.

The R3000 processor was introduced in 1988 and it found its way into many workstations and servers from Silicon Graphics and DEC as well as the original Sony PlayStation game console.

Right now, a MIPS R3000 CPU is also guiding the NASA New Horizons probe to the Kuiper belt after having completed a flyby of Pluto earlier in September.

Imagination Technologies acquired the MIPS architecture in 2013 and has taken the processor into a new generation of products including the Tesla electric car.



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