the CPU business, Cyrix is undoubtedly the one with the most interesting history.
Good performing CPU's, bad marketing, excellent design team and a pitiful end,
that is in short what Cyrix's career looked like. Cyrix was founded in 1988
by Jerry Rodgers who worked for Texas Instruments before starting his own company.
The newly formed design team started designing math coprocessors for the 286
and 386 CPU's. Not without success, Cyrix math coprocessors were faster than
their direct competitors and prices were very competitive.
Unlike Intel and AMD, Cyrix only designed CPU's and math coprocessors,
it had no manufacturing capabilities. The manufacturing was outsourced to Texas
Instruments and later to IBM, SGS-Thompson and National Semiconductors.
the 386, Intel introduced the 486 and one of the improvements was that the coprocessor
was integrated on the core. Cyrix that until then had only designed mat coprocessors
had to find another product that they could sell. Cyrix decided to enter the
CPU market and did that with an independent designed 486. AMD had always cloned
the design of Intel, but Cyrix launched its own 486 in 1992. They designed many
different types like the 486DLC which could be used to upgrade a 386 and normal
486 DX-33 and double clocked DX2-66's.
The next generation CPU Cyrix designed was named the 5x86. This CPU is
essentially a 4th generation 486 with some 5th generation technologies. Performance
was not up to par with Intel's Pentium, but it kept sales going until Cyrix
had their design of the 6x86 ready. The 6x86 was introduced in 1995 and it had
a very special design. It used a RISC core in a time where other manufacturers
used CISC designs. At the time it was generally thought that it was impossible
to combine the two different technologies, but Cyrix did it!
While the Cyrix CPU's performed well and the prices were relatively low
Cyrix did not do well in the CPU business. There were two reasons for that,
the first was that Cyrix had no access to modern fabrication plants and the
second reason was that Cyrix was a very technical advanced company with no commercial
team to back it up.
Cyrix did not own manufacturing capabilities and had to rely on third
parties for that. Those manufacturers used their high technology production
lines for their own products. As a result Cyrix CPU's were always manufactured
with inferior quality than CPU's from competitors. This lead to the much heard
complaint that Cyrix CPU's got too hot. Intel's Pentium was manufactured at
0,35 micron while Cyrix CPU's were manufactured at 0,65 microns, almost twice
In order to make profit Cyrix needed a partner like Compaq or HP to buy
their CPU's, a deal with a large PC manufacturer would lead to a steady source
of income. But Cyrix failed to find a partner and things started to look grim.
1997 Cyrix was on the almost bankrupt but could avoid bankruptcy narrowly when
it was bought by National Semiconductors. This move would likely solve their
two biggest problems, better quality manufacturing and large contracts brought
on by better commercial departments. Unfortunately National Semiconductors had
no plans for Cyrix to continue its development of High Performing CPU's like
the 6x86 and MII. Instead it wanted to pursue its developments for CPU's for
value market. Cyrix came up with the MediaGX, a CPU with integrated functions
like audio and video which was based on the 5x86.
The situation at Cyrix got worse and worse, employee's started to leave
the company and before long Cyrix was just that, a name. National Semiconductors
tried to sell Cyrix and found a buyer, VIA. This well known Taiwanese chipset
manufacturer bought the remains of Cyrix in 1999, which was basically the name
and some technology. The same year VIA had bought Centaur from IDT and with
these two CPU designers it started its own CPU development.
The result of that development was the VIA Cyrix 3, the design of the
core was based on Centaurs design of the WinChip3. The name Cyrix was only used
for publicity and marketing, the company Cyrix with the innovative designs was
no more. Just over 10 years Cyrix participated in the CPU business, with success
at first but the story had a sad ending. What remains is the name that will
go down in CPU history as the unlucky CPU designer with great designs.