Mike Schaeffer's Blog

January 5, 2006

I was roaming through the computer section of the University of Pennsylvania bookstore and ran across Pentium Chronicles, a 2006 book talking about experiences designing the P6 processor core used in the Pentium Pro, II, III, and Centrino. The author, Robert P. Collwell, was basically made employee number 1 on the P6 program when he was hired into Intel and given the assignment to "double the performance of the P5 on the same process." Of course, now, 15 years after that fateful assignment, it's pretty clear how influential the design produced by that program has been: it gave Intel a presence in the server and workstation markets, and it's still overshadowing its immediate sucessor, the Pentium4. Even if the project hadn't been that successful, the first 20% of Dr. Collwell's book has me convinved that it'd have been an interesting read anyway.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Kerry Nietz's book, FoxTales. As much as Pentium Chronicles was the view from the top, the perspective of a very senior architect at Intel on a huge, industry-wide project, FoxTales is the opposite: the perspective of a fresh out of school programmer working on his first niche market shrink wrapped software package. If anything, that means it's much more likely to be relevant to people with the time to read this blog: it certainly brought back memories of the first years of my career.

The best thing about both of these books is that they are both cheap and short. You can probably read them both for <$50 and 10-20 hours of time, all of which would be well spent.