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back to article How STEVE JOBS saved Apple's bacon with an outstretched ARM

The chip designers at ARM Holdings have turned the computing world upside down, shaken Intel to its core, pulled AMD into its orbit, and broadened its range beyond mobile into every nook and cranny of the digital world, from toys to servers. But where did this UK wonder company come from? How does it earn its living? And how did …

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Anonymous Coward

Another example of how the current phone industry owes a lot to Apple.

People seem to forget the Newton when they rant on about prior art and how they owned a touch screen smartphone before the iPhone.

ARM might not have been as successful or could have disappeared without the help of Apple and their interest in ARM.

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Anonymous Coward

Of course we have to thank Ti and Nokia too.

Where were Samsung?

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Another example of how..

ARM are leagues above anything INtel/AMD can produce. Apple did nothing apart from see a good chip, the company is run by geniuses that are NOT swayed by any evil corporate machine, simply because it aint American. Acorn was an awesome company way above anything Bill Gates could forsee, problem is Gates was American and used his theft to promote/dictate to the world. Very sad that computers lost decades to a thief. Lets face it Jobs had a thing with the UK, what with the Apple logo, ARM. He knew a good thing when he saw it

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@Bladeforce Re: Another example of how..

Are you saying that Microsoft used strongARM tactics?

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Re: Another example of how..

Okay, I suspect the true narrative is a tad more nuanced than your Anglophile Jobs Evil Gates version.

However I do remember a time when my family's DOS PC seemed very boring compared to my friends' Amigas and Ataris, or the Archimedes and Apples at school.

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Alert

Taking a byte at history

@Dave 126, latching on to your comment about the Archimedes, and to focus on the quote in the article:

"Everybody my age in the UK used one of those machines at school," he said – Chris is a middle-aged chap – but "they're long gone now."

I'd say this isn't right - though it may be I'm slightly older than Chris. None of my peers used the Archimedes and its ARM processor - we all used the BBC Micro with its 6502, at home, at school and at university. My recollection was that the Archimedes appeared that little bit too late and the IBM PC stole its place in history.

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Anonymous Coward

Apple should probably just buy Arm with some of their foreign cash pile and have done with it - but perhaps it's just cheaper to license their tech instead.

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Re: Taking a byte at history

The ARM1 was designed as a BBC Micro add-in processor, and Chris was referring to the BBC Micro in that statement.

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Anonymous Coward

It's highly likely that if Apple tried to buy ARM, all of the other uses of ARM would get together and buy them instead.

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I imagine there must be some terms in their licences to address what happens if the company changes hands; no large company would effectively bet the farm on ARM devices if the pipeline could be abruptly cut off by a competitor. I think competition authorities might have something to say about it, too!

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Re: Taking a byte at history

@JeeBee, even if the ARM1 was being used in a tube second processor "add-in" (not something I was aware of), it certainly didn't go "into a system that became wildly popular in the UK education market". I never came across anyone using a second processor other than a Z80 one (from Torch) or a 320xx one (Acorn's Pandora)...

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"Apple should probably just buy Arm with some of their foreign cash pile and have done with it - but perhaps it's just cheaper to license their tech instead."

Interesting idea. I wonder why they don't ? Almost worth the loss ?

i.e. buy ARM, refuse licences to any other competitors for phone chips, take the loss on the company bottom line (still be profitable through non-phone related licences).

A bit like GM buying out all the trams in Los Angeles back in the 40s.

Would the loss on the ARM purchase be made up for the fact that the android devices would cease to get faster (no more new ARM chips) ?

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Anonymous Coward

Building photocopiers

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@sorry, what?

I was only talking about a certain place and time, around 1990, and the schools I knew. No one I knew had an Archimedes at home (they mostly had Amigas, Atari STs or a console), but my primary school had one - and it appeared to an eleven year old boy more advanced (prettier graphics! Nice sounds!) than the Olivetti 8086 we had at home (no sound card or game port, no graphical desktop environment).

A year later, and my next school had a suite of Archimedes... we were even allowed to play David Braben's 'Lander' (aka Virus, Zarch) on the last day of term. The graphics were Wow! at the time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=653Ger80ros

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Re: Taking a byte at history

I'm 41, I used the BBC in school and the Archimedes in college, I also provided the art package that our local authority used in the schools (It was my 'A' level project originally) when the Archimedes replaced the BBC (Usually the A3000 but later the A3010 or A3020) and have an A7000+ at home.

The PC did take over but the Archie was there from the late 80's (1988 where I lived) in colleges right up to the mid 90's in some schools. It was (And still is) an excellent machine to learn programming on and was clock speed for clock speed faster than anything else on the market.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Taking a byte at history

I had (and still have) a BBC master with a 186 second processor board, although it's internal, not the external one.

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What would happen if Apple buys ARM?

The rest of the industry would probably move to MIPS - it may not be as advanced as ARM, but it's not too far behind. Until Intel are able to compete with ARM or MIPS on price they won't be a serious competitor.

The amazing thing about ARM is not the CPU - it's the business model. ARM CPU's are common in phones (and have been for a long time) because they are cheap to produce and "easy" to customise (from a manufacturers point of view you only have to worry about the design and the features/IP that you are adding - you aren't trying to convince another manufacturer to redesign a custom chip for your needs). MIPS would fit that model if there was a compelling reason to move away from ARM.

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Re: Taking a byte at history

"I'd say this isn't right - though it may be I'm slightly older than Chris"

It's your age I'd guess. I'm 35. All BBCs were replaced by Archimedes before I got to secondary school (we still had a BBC B at my primary school as the only computer). We had a couple of Windows PCs looking lonely and unloved in the corner by the time I left secondary school. I don't think Windows PCs were widely used in education until after Win95 came out (what with it being a much more familiar interface to those used to RiscOS than the god-awful Win3.1, and with the general dominance of "IBM compatible" PCs by then).

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Re: "Another example of how the current phone industry owes a lot to Apple."

Apple paid ARM for a CPU design. Since presumably both parties received exactly what they agreed upon, then the account is settled, and therefore no one "owes" anyone anything.

So, ultimately, Apple's only real "achievement" was ... it was one of ARM's customers.

Is the rest of the world supposed to feel privileged, just because Apple went shopping?

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Re: What would happen if Apple buys ARM?

The business model and the CPU can't be separated. Steve Furber designed the original ARM for minimal silicon real estate and power consumption - it was those virtues (well ahead of competitors at the time) that enabled ARM CPU blocks to be combined into systems-on-a-chip as silicon densities increased.

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Re: What would happen if Apple buys ARM?

"Steve Furber designed the original ARM for minimal silicon real estate and power consumption"

Er no. He designed it to be as cheap as possible to fabricate, because the original products it was designed for could not actually afford the foundry costs of a big chip.

An there it languished until mobile computing started to take off. suddenly the minimalist design was outperforming rivals in terms of battery life - and the rest is history.

Low power consumption was never a design objective: it was just a side effect of another one. Not wishing to take anything away from ARM, but it was - as many success stories are - a matter of being in the right place at the right time, often for all the wrong reasons.

My real admiration for ARM is the development of the business model, that allowed them to grow against the likes of INTEL without spending that sort of money. The understanding that ASIC technology could be used to leverage IP into a licensing model that required only what ARM could deliver - technical smarts - was the key.

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Pint

Re: Taking a byte at history

@Dave 126, mal7921 and Richard 22 - I stand educated! Yup it must be an age thing; I'm a decade older than Richard 22, and have a few more years on me than mal7921. This probably explains a lot.

I have one friend (don't stop reading there!) who still has an Archimedes. He used to rave about RiscOS, but I never really got to have a play so can only be guided by your experiences. I grew up with beebs (and got a Master for use at uni). Now the beeb was an excellent machine to learn programming - both in BBC Basic and in 6502 assembler!

Cheers!

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Re: Taking a byte at history

You're right - the BBC Micro was one of the machines officially approved for use in UK schools. Research Machines 380Z was another, as I recall, although it cost ten times as much as the BBC Micro (which meant schools that opted for RM's offering could really only afford to buy one machine per school. Ouch).

I also recall the tussle for the Beeb's Literacy contract - Pope Clive felt that he could capitalize on the ZX80/81 but didn't manage to beat Acorn who already had a successor to their Atom in the works (the Proton) which was swiftly repurposed. The BBC Micros eventually evolved into the Archimedes.

Ah, nostalgia. It's a pain in the ..er.. nost.

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Re: Another example of how..

"Apple did nothing apart from see a good chip"

Yes, certainly there is no value in recognizing what is good and what is bad.

"simply because it aint American"

A sound basis upon which to proceed with an argument.

Also, you left out Jony, but, based on the random walk nature of your arguments, whose to say you see any value there.

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Re: Taking a byte at history

I used a 6502 second processor on my Electron. Does that count?

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Re: Another example of how..

What thievery do you accuse Gates of? Apple's GUI? Digital Research's CPM? IBM's reputation (and resources)? Usability in favor of being attractive to corporate buyers instead of users? Or something even less well known? Too bad he gave away the valuable company to a co-founder who took it down by making employees compete instead of collaborate. Perhaps his successor will have more sense.

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I just think it's a shame

That they can't make some RiscOS machines for fun. With an income like that they could afford to fill British schools with them, for free.

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Re: I just think it's a shame

RiscOS runs on Raspberry Pi, so you can have a very cheap RiscOS machine these days. It's amazingly fast as the OS is very small compared to Raspbian.

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Anonymous Coward

so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

Quote

When discussing his company's 64-bit ARMv8 architecture, Shore revealed that ARM-licensee Apple's implementation of it in its A7 processor came as a surprise to many at ARM. "Our fruity friends earlier this year stunned the world, actually, and stunned most of ARM's employees, in fact, by releasing the latest version of the iPhone supporting and including a 64-bit processor," he said. "They'd done that incredibly secretly and ended up stealing a march on the whole of the rest of the industry. It was quite a staggering achievement, to be honest."

Can all people who post here saying that apple only copy and don't innovate please remember this paragraph.

But they won't will they?

all I'm trying to point out is that not every company is evil/good/bad/god incarnate.

This post will probably be sent to hell by the Apple Haters who are so blinkered in their view of the world it matters little what anyone says against them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

Buying a license to another company's IP and then using it is innovation?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

As ARM sells its IP to its Licensees AND then doing something neat with it then yes. Especially so if the IP holder expresses surprise at the way they did it.

If that isn't innovating then ask what the reaction of the Fandroids if Samsung had done this first. They'd be crowing from the tree-tops over this.

As a former silcon designer, I can see from the various takedowns of the 5S that apple have done a lot of very neat work to get that CPU working in that package. There is a lot of very good stuff done under the covers that never sees the light of day. The way they have made their CPU and GPU work so well together is very impressive. Personally, I call that being innovative.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

If that other company - ARM, who are presumably more knowledgable on this than you - say so, then yes.

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Re: so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

>and stunned most of ARM's employees

I read that as meaning only a group within ARM were working on the 64bit design, or that others within ARM were working on it but didn't realise that it was ready for production at the time.

But yeah, I find the Evil Company / Saintly Company terms boring too. I prefer to look at the products a company can bring out if it is in full control of its hardware and OS, and at the products that can result when anyone can make a component and drivers. These two approaches have different strengths; as an example, the former can produce a tighter integration and fewer variables to troubleshoot, and the latter can drive down prices by having, say, AMD compete against nVidia. Apple can bring multi-touch gestures to OSX because they know their hardware touchpad is suitable, whereas I use a lovely Logitech mouse.

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Re: so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

Apple bought an "ARM design house". That team applied its previous skill and ARM IP to produce the A7. The first iPhone used a Samsung developed ARM.

So Apple "natively" are a Product Style and Marketing company. Very little software or hardware innovation. Even most of the style is copied from Braun & Dieter Rams.

But then again MS bought in SQL, Visio, DOS and many more. Original MS Basic ripped off mostly over a weekend from Dartmouth BASIC by Bill Gate's friend. They did really produce Word & Excel (the two most successful Office apps ever?) but ironically initially for the Mac (Lisa MkII copy of Xerox Star) as their own GUI copy of Xerox wasn't quite able then!

Google bought in Maps and Android, copied Java and used Linux. (They are really an Advertising Agency).

The patent system is broken and there is a small amount of incremental innovation by anyone. Often most by small acorns that are snaffled up by pigs.

JAVA internal design concepts based on p-Machine used to run p-code produced by UCSD pascal.

No one designs from scratch and in isolation very often.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

> I read that as meaning only a group within ARM were working on the

> 64bit design, or that others within ARM were working on it but didn't

> realise that it was ready for production at the time.

ARM's 64-bit architecture *spec* has been finished for quite a while now.

Apple built their own processor that implements that spec. Most people at ARM didn't know that they were doing that, or at least didn't know the timescale for it.

(ARM licensees are in two groups: those who do their own implementations to the spec that ARM provides, and those who use designs that ARM provides. Apple has been in the former category, implementing their own designs, since about when they acquired the very experienced chip design team from P.A. Semi in 2008.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

Apple are an architectural licensee so they can design their own cores

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Boffin

Re: so Arm says that Apple did innovate then?

> Buying a license to another company's IP and then using it is innovation?

A "big bundle of RTL" (as the article describes what ARM license) representing a processor architecture design does not a silicon chip ready for manufacturing make. There would still have have been massive amounts of design work in the integration to the process and the rest of the components on the chip. Whether it meets your definition of innovative getting the chip out of the door in volume before anyone else is ready to do one is definitely impressive.

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Anonymous Coward

Even most of the style is copied from Braun & Dieter Rams.

Borroks and a thousand times borroks!

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Re: Even most of the style is copied from Braun & Dieter Rams.

>Even most of the style is copied from Braun & Dieter Rams.

Dieter Rams doesn't call himself a designer but (when roughly translated into English) a 'form engineer'. Jony Ive openly acknowledges the influence, but he's not copying Rams' style but his methodology, an approach to design. Ram's 'Ten Principles of Good Design' are here:

http://www.sfmoma.org/about/press/press_exhibitions/releases/880

People can easily copy style (remember the plague of cheap translucent blue products - staplers, USB hubs etc- that followed in the wake of the orginal iMac?), but following principles is harder, it requires an understanding of your particular problem and the materials available to you to solve it.

Of course you'd be a fool to be blind to when a problem has been solved before... you want to make a music playback device that fits in a pocket? The act of of sliding the device in and out of your pocket is a large part of its 'use'. Okay, let's look at cigarette cases and Sony Walkmans- what aspects can you usefully implement in your design?

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Re: This post will probably be sent to hell by the Apple Haters

Not by this one. Have an upvote. My issues are with the boneheads who posted facile twattery like 'hur hur why don't Apple just buy ARM and have done with it', or 'Apple saved ARM'. Take nearly all mobile phones from from the late 90s on, plus Android tablets, and every Nintendo handheld since the GBA to get just a small idea of how little ARM needs Apple.

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The Archimedes was popular in schools?

I remember the BBC Model b being popular in schools but I don't think the Archimedes (which the ARM Chip was designed for) was ever that popular.

It was the lack of popularity of the Archimedes as IBM PCs took off that meant ARM become its own company and Acorn is no more.....

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Re: The Archimedes was popular in schools?

My primary school had one Archimedes, and my junior school had a suite of them. I can't comment on how widespread they were, other than noting they seemed fairly well supported on the software front.

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Re: The Archimedes was popular in schools?

I really liked Archimedes, we had a mixed suite of them and BBC-Bs at school for 5-6 years before we even had a single PC. Much better documented than a PC, you could easily sit down and write applications. I'd written programs for the BBC before, but the first WIMP application I wrote was on a A3000.

I even went on a day trip to Earls Court to some Acorn/Archimedes tech show where I saw the Newton for the first time, at that time, for a kid from the country, it was almost unbelievable.

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FAIL

""That processor was designed by a very small team of only four engineers," he said, "one of whom designed the instruction set, one of whom did the microarchitecture, and two others who assisted with the designing of the supporting chipset." That tiny team produced the processor in 14 months, and it first ran code in Acorn's offices in Cambridge on 26 April, 1985. "And ARM still occupies that office."

Saxby was important - subsequently. But I love the way the "iginuurs" are typically unnamed!

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Mangled history

Given how the Register produces fascinating 'history of computing' articles, the fuzziness around the development of the first ARM processor, and what exactly Acorn did is a bit disappointing.

As is the lack of technical detail of how exactly Apple surprised ARM with their implementation. If someone tells you that they were surprised by something, wouldn't you ask what and why?

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Re: Mangled history

Not really. As they have already said, they license the design, how you then use it is up to you, and some customers choose not to feed back to ARM. I don't feed back to Tescos what I do with the ingredients I buy from them. Or to Dell as to what we do with their servers - although they were a bit surprised! I find it a very refreshing attitude. And ARM are not very far from where I am sat now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mangled history

First, on the topic: interesting that only one of the four ARM sites is in Britain now. So, where is the main design work done? Is it still British, apart from ownership and management? Actually, I suspect the ownership is not even mainly British.

Now a moan:

Spelling and so on: "licenCe" versus "licenSe" was taught to me long ago and, like "practiCe" and "practiSe" (noun and verb) seem perfectly logical. I note even some American writers have learnt it and use it now.

Is n't it possible for people, who pretend to be professional writers, to write consistent, good English with good grammar and correct spelling, with good translations where appropriate (including from American to English, e.g. spelling, metaphors and similes translated to English versions, the archaisms like "gotten" trimmed to the modern English, post 17th century equivalents) and grammatical mistakes corrected (such as "different than" instead of "different from", cf. "differ from")? If a computer programmer made similar levels of mistakes, the programme would not even compile or, in more forgiving languages, do something other than the intention. As we expect programmers to do better, it is only reasonable to expect writers in their native language to do better.

Of course, perhaps your real market is the USA; but I dare say most of them can cope with English at least as well as some Britons think they cope with American.

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Re: Mangled history

Detail is here:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/05/03/unsung_heroes_of_tech_arm_creators_sophie_wilson_and_steve_furber/

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