Wednesday, February 14, 2007


In 1994, Usenet, a system of Internet message boards wherein users from all over the world can discuss issues, first spread news about a faulty version of Pentium processors. Users caused so much commotion about the "Pentium bug" that journalists and CNN used the message boards as a channel of information during the chip problem. Because of the massive attention, Intel was forced to compensate for their error by replacing the damaged chips. Sean Maloney, then senior vice president of Intel and director of the Sales and Marketing Group, said in a 1994 CNET interview that he was surprised at how quickly the Internet "was a critical factor in forming opinions and spreading information...this medium was full of opinions, one order, two orders of magnitude faster than any medium had done before."

<-- Sean Maloney
I did a Yahoo! Search on "pentium bug" and the first link that came up was in Wikipedia, titled Pentium FDIV bug. FDIV stands for floating point division which is the assembly language used in the writing of computer programs. The Wikipedia entry said that Thomas Nicely, then a professor of mathematics at Lynchburg College discovered the bug in October of 1994 and reported it to Intel. He also sent an email to his contacts asking them to test their processors. There is no mention of Usenet, but the entry does state that the flaw was "quickly verified by other people around the Internet..." The entry provided external links, one of which was to Nicely's website, which contained an account of how the news of the damaged chip spread through the internet.

1 comment:

....J.Michael Robertson said...

I know that Wikipedia is often correct -- that is, the writer/editors who contribute are usually accurate, though the quality varies entry to entry. But I always cross my fingers before citing the Big W. Now, when I'm blogging I may only think about crossing my fingers because to my mind blogging is a tentative exercise. We are beginning the discussion and ready to be corrected. Still, sometimes I think the official logo for Wikipedia should be W(?).