Walking through our production facility yesterday, I noticed a batch of motherboards on the assembly line, being prepared for shipment.
The board was our old "Predator 747" equipped with a blazingly fast 486DX2 processor. Long since 'officially' discontinued, we've quietly continued to manufacture and sell this to one of our clients that use the boards to repair medical equipment. However, after about (14) years of on-going production, we are no longer going to continue manufacturing the boards. The parts have become almost impossible for us to find these days.
It then occurred to me that I was really looking at something special... the end of an era... The last time in the history of mankind and technology, that a new production motherboard equipped with a 486 series processor will be shipping out to the world.
The contrast was interesting... on an assembly station right next to the 486 boards, sits our Q35 motherboard running an Intel Core™ 2 Quad processor. In the same room, spaced less than 10' apart we have factory new products representing a part of computing history spanning over 20 years. The 486DX2 processor runs at a whopping 66MHz, while the Core 2 Quad cruises along with 4 processors at 2.83GHz. Let's take a moment to put that into perspective...
These numbers are approximate, but I came up with some interesting data using historical processor comparisons from a favorite benchmarking software we use in the lab. A task that would take the Q35 a single minute to accomplish would require about 9.8hrs on the Predator 747. Put differently, an hour of work on the Quad Core, equates to about 3.5 weeks on the 486. Yet, the humble 486 is still in use out there in the world, still doing it's assigned tasks, and still helping humanity.
But now the time has come to say goodbye... Perhaps I should write a eulogy to the legacy of the 486 as we did for the death of the floppy drive. But I have a better idea... For those of you who were around to remember this part of our history (that will soon be ending with a final trip in a UPS truck)...
Let's have a little contest. If anyone out there wants to write a eulogy to the true end of the 486 processor, send them to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll pick our favorite(s) and publish them with your name and credentials in the next update! Maybe I'll even come up with a special Martin's Corner Prize for the best one. :-)