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HPC Past and Present: Remembering the i8087

Where do all good ideas go? Into the CPU of course.

Back in the the day, we used processors that did not have floating point hardware. You may find it hard to believe, but the first micro-processors did not have on-board floating point units. Floating point was possible, but it was done in software. When the Intel 8086 hit the market there was an option to add a math co-processor called the i8087. If you included this co-processor, floating point calculations got much faster, provided you had software that could use it. Almost all systems had an empty socket for the i8087. It could purchased with the system or added later. Back then, processors came in a 40 pin DIP (Dual In-line Package). The trick was to push the rather large chip into a socket without bending or breaking the pins.

The separate and sometimes absent math co-processor resulted from both manufacturing and marketing decisions. From a manufacturing standpoint, the…

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