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MIPS R4000 Microprocessor

Following the R3000 microprocessor, in 1992 the R4000 was the first microprocessor released by the reformed MIPS Technologies Inc. semiconductor design firm. Similar to Sun Microsystems, MIPS designs chips, but does not manufacture them. Instead, MIPS licensed or sub-contracted their R4000 line of wafers to custom semiconductor manufacturers including NEC, Toshiba, LSI Logic, and Integrated Device Technologies (IDT). Although not apparent from the numerical identification, the R4000 was preceded by the R6000 processor, which was released in 1991.

The R4000 central processing unit core was MIPS Technologies' first 64-bit, super-pipelined endeavor with reduced instruction set computing (RISC) specifications. The processor operated at 5 volts and squeezed 1.1 million transistors onto 213 square millimeters of silicon substrate using 1.0-micron photolithography techniques. A later, further-miniturized version supported 1.3 million transistors on a 165-square-millimeter die, featuring a 100 MHz clock speed and 8 Kbytes each of directly mapped input and data caches built with Harvard Architecture.

A higher performance version, the R4400, operated at a 200 MHz clock speed, and a low-power version, the R4200, dissipated 1.5 watts of power when fully operational, and 0.4 watts in the reduced power mode. Reincarnated as their MIPS32 4Kp embedded processor core, the design engineers were able to miniaturize the R4000 using a 0.25-micron process to achieve silicon die sizes as small as 3 square millimeters. The R4000 once powered now-defunct Zenith televisions with Internet access. They were also employed in Alteon Networks' Tigon ASIC Router and some older Silicon Graphics (SGI) graphics workstations.

Contributing Authors

Omar Alvarado, Thomas J. Fellers and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.



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