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September 30, 1998

WILL TRANSMETA REVIVE IBM’S POWERPC 615?

By CBR Staff Writer

IBM Corp’s abandoned Power PC 615 chip – the one that was to have emulated Intel iAPX-86 instructions – may not be quite dead. According to The Register – which has been running snippets on secretive silicon valley chip company Transmeta Corp for some days now, and receiving hate mail in return – the Santa Clara, California-based company has hired quite a few of the engineers from the Austin, Texas Somerset plant where the 615 was being developed around 1994 and 1995, and may use some of the technology for its forthcoming new chip. A fair amount of silicon was actually produced at Somerset, says the paper. Transmeta’s own explanation of itself – just about its only comment on the subject to date – is that it is working on alternative VLSI engines for multimedia PCs. But with RISC chip pioneer David Ditzel as CEO, Linux creator Linus Torvalds as technology guru, and Paul Allen as an investor, the company has attracted a great deal of interest, with most rumors claiming the firm is working on an Intel-compatible part of some description. Work on the 615 was abandoned in 1996. It was thought to be set to deliver a certain amount of iAPX-86 emulation in hardware to help with the translation process rather than full hardware emulation (CI No 2,623). Transmeta, a fabless semiconductor company, is also said to be considering using IBM’s fab lines to produce its parts, whatever they eventually turn out to be.

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