How Does Intel Name its Chips?

Reporter's Notebook: Wonder where they come up with those codenames? From a local map, it seems.
Ever feel like you need a map to keep up with all of the products coming from Intel?

That's because the company uses one to pick out its codenames. While headquarters is situated firmly in the heart of the Silicon Valley -- Santa Clara, Calif., to be exact -- the primary development is done in Oregon, with some in the Sierra Nevadas area of northern California and some in its Israel facility. As a result, the engineers at Intel have picked codenames from their surroundings.

Since it's my job to keep these code names straight, I inevitably became curious about their origins. It became clear pretty quick that Intel was taking names from local landmarks around its development facilities. But take a closer look at newer titles, and it appears Intel has run out of local landmarks. The cities are now all over the map.

I couldn't even track down a few -- Clovertown, Kentsfield, Yorkfield, Whitefield, Sossaman -- and Intel, for its own reasons, doesn't like to tie its code names to a specific city. It likes to say there's a Penryn in California and England, and won't say whether it picked one city over another in the name.

Wikipedia maintains a list, but I highlight some of the more interesting entries here. It certainly gives you an interesting tour of Oregon and the Sierra Nevadas. So, let's go for a ride.

Bear Lake. The second-largest natural freshwater lake in Utah, on the border between Utah and Idaho. It will be a successor to Intel's 965 chipset used on motherboards.

Yonah. A variant on the spelling of the Hebrew word Jonah, which means "dove." Intel has a sizable development effort based in Israel. Also means "bear" in the Cherokee language. This eventually became the Core microarchitecture.

Banias. Sometimes spelled "Banyas," it's a city near Mt. Hermon in the Golan Heights. A nearby spring supplies the Jordan River. It was the codename for what became the Pentium M processor, which was designed in Israel. The M line was primarily sold in 2004 and 2005.

Willamette. A valley between Eugene and Portland with a river by the same name. Intel has many facilities based in this area. Released in 2000, it became the first Pentium 4 processor.

Katmai. The one Intel codename also used by Microsoft. Microsoft used it as the codename for the next version of SQL Server, currently in development. Intel used it to name the Pentium III line. The name comes from Mount Katmai, a volcano on the Alaska peninsula and the site of a huge eruption in 1912.

Yamhill. After much foot-dragging and seeing the great success of AMD's 64-bit x86-64 processors, Intel decided to get this out of the labs. Yamhill was a 64-bit extension to the x86 instruction set. It was introduced in 2004 in the Pentium 4, Celeron D and Xeon lines and is now standard across all Intel processors. Taken from a river in the Willamette valley.

Santa Rosa. A mid-sized city about an hour north of San Francisco, known as the gateway to wine country and as the home of "Peanuts" creator Charles M. Schulz and the birthplace of Robert Ripley, creator of Ripley's Believe It or Not!. It's the codename for Intel's successor to the Centrino line.

Montevina. Montevina was the first post-Prohibition winery built in Amador County, a former gold rush territory in California. The facility has a $12 million, state-of-the-art production facility and a patio that can accommodate up to 300 Sideways fans. Montevina will be the successor to Santa Rosa.

Penryn. A small, unincorporated city in the Sierra Nevada region of California known for its quarry, which produces a unique marble that takes on a bluish tint. Penryn is the next-generation of processors from Intel and the first to use 45nm production.

Nehalem. A city in northern Oregon in Tillamook County (a previous Intel codename) known for salmon fishing, its park and river, and for a casino. It's the successor to Intel's Core architecture, due in 2008, and will be the first to forgo the frontside bus design.

Clovertown. A tiny city in eastern Kentucky that is home to a large number of parks and historical sites. Also the home of Maggie Bailey, a bootlegger who first began making moonshine at the age of 17 and sold it well into her 90s. It's the name for what is now the 5300 series of quad-core Xeon processors from Intel, based on the Core architecture

Woodcrest. A small city of 8,000 in Riverside County in southern California. Also the fictitious city for the comic strip Boondocks. Also, the 5100 series of dual core Xeon processors, and the first to be based on the Core architecture

Wolfdale. A popular and well-reviewed restaurant in Lake Tahoe. It will be a dual-core processor in the Penryn line, released in early 2008.

Conroe. A mid-sized city outside of Houston, Texas. Was the codename for what eventually became desktop Core 2 processors.

Harpertown. A small city in Kern County, California. It will be a 45 nm, eight-core Xeon processor with 12 MB of L2 cache.

Tigerton. A quad-core Xeon capable of supporting more than just two processors per computer. And a village in Wisconsin. Will be known as the Xeon 7300 line when released later this year.

This article was first published on InternetNews.com. To read the full article, click here.






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