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Intel’s chipset nightmare deja vu?

- February 1st, 2011

intellogo

Intel has discovered and reported a flaw in one of their chipsets used in PCs with Intel’s latest second-generation of Intel core processors (code-named Sandy Bridge). The chipset (code-named Cougar Point), could potentially cause issues with  the performance of hard drives and DVD drives as the chipsets could degrade prematurely over time.

Now Intel has already implemented a silicon fix and is manufacturing a new version of the chip. And while they’ve stop shipping the old chip the company says that there may be a few out there since they started shipping on Jan 9th.

Pentium FDIV Bug Circa 1994

This isn’t the first chip flaw for Intel. Back in 1994 it was discovered that the FPU (floating-point unit) of the Intel P5 Pentium chip would produce incorrect results when performing division operations.

But in 1994, it wasn’t Intel themselves that first brought this issue, called the PENTIUM FDIV Bug to light, but rather by Dr. Tom Nicely a math professor at Lynchburg College in Virginia. Nicely posted his findings on the Internet after his original  letter to Intel went unanswered.

There was quite a controversy at the time with claims that Intel knew about the error long before but did nothing about it. They eventually acknowledged the situation claiming it was no big deal and wouldn’t affect most users. The turning point was later that year when, as a result of an article in the Wall Street Journal, Intel offered to replace all the defective chips. Interestingly enough a small percentage of the chips affected were ever turned in for replacement.

Top 9.99998 Reasons

The flaw spawned tons of Pentium jokes, including statements like “Intel Inside, Don’t Divide” and  “What is 8/2? Pentium Answer: 3.99”.

But it was serious, no joke. Not only did the company lose money but in many eyes it seriously tarnished its reputation.

Quick to Respond, Still Costs $1 Billion

This time around Intel wasted no time in coming clean. It’s a smart move on their part. Unlike in 1994 when dial-up Internet was King, today’s information travels around the globe faster than the speed of light.

While Intel says that relatively few consumers are impacted by the issue it expects that this little design flaw will cost them roughly $300 million for the first quarter of 2011 in lost revenue and another $700 million, a very cool billion dollars in total “to replace affected materials and systems in the market” -  and that’s no joke.

While Intel has not provided any specific information as to which systems might be affected they say the only systems sold and customers potentially impacted are second-generation Core i5 and Core i7 quad core-based systems. They are directing consumers to contact Intel on the support page or contact their OEM manufacturer directly.

Greg Gazin is the Real Canadian Gadget Guy.

Follow me on Twitter @gadgetgreg

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6 comments

  1. Andrew | February 1, 2011 at 4:53 am

    Nice article, shame you didn’t run a spell check through it before posting.

    Looks like it was coppied out by a 5 year old.

  2. Randy | February 1, 2011 at 8:30 am

    “coppied out by a 5 year old” – from the pot calling the kettle black department.

    You speak (and spell) a good lookin’ English.

  3. Greg Gazin | February 1, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Thanks for pointing out my errors. They’ve been corrected.

  4. Kevin | February 3, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Good reminder about the beating Intel took back in ’94.

    This post isn’t as meaty as your usual fare, but don’t worry about the ‘anonymous’ critical comment. It’s probably just someone who’s grumpy after spilling coffee on their shirt this morning.

    You’re one of the main reasons I keep coming back to the CanoeTech blog. I’m looking forward to your next post.

  5. Mark | February 8, 2011 at 7:34 am

    And I thought you mis-spelled that on purppose for the effect.

  6. kecske | January 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    PowerPC: Hey Pentium, 2+2?
    Pentium: 5!
    PowerPC: Nope, it’s 4.
    Pentium: But i was fast, right?

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