35 Years Of ARM Processors, Wish Your Devices A Happy Birthday

Source: The Register 35 Years Of ARM Processors, Wish Your Devices A Happy Birthday

This Acorn Did Fall Far From The Tree

You generally shouldn’t compare Acorns to Apples, unless you are Steve Furber and Sophie Wilson whom have spent 35 years successfully proving their ability to excel at doing exactly that.  The story of the development of ARM is an impressive one, including an engineer capable of mentally visualizing instruction sets which was key in the quick and relatively inexpensive birth of Acorn and ARM.  The original Acorn microcomputer enjoyed a few years of success, but development continued and in 1983 they released a new 32 bit RISC processor which rqeuired a mere 808 lines of code to function.

Their reputation for low power draw was also cemented at this time, during the initial testing of the original ARM1 the processor would start up and run off of the I/O interface; not even bothering to wait for it’s own power supply to be connected.  At this time the ARM1 was a co-processor in Acorn machines, though it was also more capable than Intel’s 80286 as it drew far less power but was still capable of between three to eight MIPs.  After a few years Apple took notice of their English competition and started to sniff around Acorn which lead to them splitting off their R&D organization and the birth of a separate entity called Advanced RISC Machines, back in November of 1990 and eventually the Apple Newton.

The Newton is perhaps best forgotten, but it did lead ARM down the mobile path which they remain on until this day.  Unlike the Newton, the ARM powered Nokia 6110 is widely remembered, fondly by most, and showed the market the versatility of ARM processors.  From those beginnings came the Cortex processors which are now found in almost any type of device you can think of, including servers and even Intel processors! 

Take a wander down memory lane with The Register and consider raising one in honour of ARM later tonight.

"At 1pm on April 26th 1985," recalled Prof Steve Furber, "the first ARM microprocessors arrived back from the manufacturer – VTI [VLSI Technology, Inc]. They were put straight into the development system which was fired up with a tweak or two and, at 3 pm, the screen displayed: 'Hello World, I am ARM'.

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About The Author

Jeremy Hellstrom

Call it K7M.com, AMDMB.com, or PC Perspective, Jeremy has been hanging out and then working with the gang here for years. Apart from the front page you might find him on the BOINC Forums or possibly the Fraggin' Frogs if he has the time.


  1. BigTed

    It’s not specifically about ARM, but there’s a charming film about Acorn vs Sinclair and the early British computer industry called Micro Men from 2009. It’s on youtube and is well worth a watch.

    • Jeremy Hellstrom

      It surely is … that was a little while back, wasn’t it?

      • BigTed

        Yeah, but it suits me just fine as I live in the past. I’m still waiting for the PCPer retro podcast…

        • Jeremy Hellstrom

          WHAT?!? Just that Josh and I exist isn’t enough retro content for you? It has been discussed on occasion, have to bring it up again.

          • collie man

            I’d love to hear a PCPER retro podcast, but the problem with retro is you run outa material pretty fast.

            On that note tho, to kill some lockdown time I binged some of the super old episodes that are still sitting on my dusty old ipod.

            #1) I miss colleen

            #2) it’s fun to listen to Ryan be super excited by Bulldozer. Then less so, then less then less, I havent gotten to it’s actual release yet.

            • Sebastian Peak

              You really think we would run out of material fast? I have a basement (and attic) of retro computer stuff that MIGHT convince you otherwise. 🙂

              • Collie

                Bring it on, I’d watch that.

              • BigTed

                Call it PC Retrospective (I won’t charge you for that gem) , get dressed up in period costume i.e. a nice baggy suit with turn-ups for the Windows 95 episode, and maybe make Josh wear a wig.

              • collie man

                See I wasn’t thinking windows 95 retro, I was thinking Comidore 64, Vic 20, BBC Micro, trs 80, even as far as k-pro retro, but I suppose that mostly has to do with age

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