Chip Hall of Fame: Texas Instruments TMS32010 Digital Signal Processor

This chip put digital signal processors—specialists in handling the messy world outside the computer—on the map

1 min read
TMS32010 Digital Signal Processor
Image: Texas Instruments

TMS32010 Digital Signal Processor

Manufacturer: Texas Instruments

Category: Processors

Year: 1983

The state of Texas has given us many great things, including the 10-gallon hat, chicken-fried steak, Dr Pepper, and perhaps less prominently, the TMS32010 digital signal processor (DSP) chip. DSPs are generally used to handle complex analog signals after they have been converted into a raw digital stream. This stream would overwhelm a general-purpose CPU, but DSPs can use specialized algorithms and hardware to process the stream into something the overall system can cope with.

Created by Texas Instruments, the TMS32010 wasn’t the first DSP (that’d be AT&T/Western Electric’s DSP1, introduced in 1980), but it was surely the fastest. It could compute a multiply operation in 200 nanoseconds, a feat that made engineers all tingly. What’s more, it could execute instructions from both on-chip ROM and off-chip RAM, whereas competing chips had only canned DSP functions. “That made program development [for the TMS32010] flexible, just like with microcontrollers and microprocessors,” says Wanda Gass, a member of the DSP design team and IEEE Fellow. At US $500 apiece, the chip sold about 1,000 units the first year. Sales eventually ramped up, and the DSP became part of modems, medical devices, and military systems. Oh, and another application: Worlds of Wonder’s Julie, a Chucky-style creepy doll that could sing and talk (“Are we making too much noise?”). The chip was the first in a large DSP family that made—and continues to make—TI’s fortune.

doll1987 saw the introduction of the technologically advanced, but somewhat badly coiffed, interactive talking Julie doll.Photo: Janet M. Baker

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How Ted Hoff Invented the First Microprocessor

Hoff thought designing 12 custom chips for a calculator was crazy, so he created the Intel 4004

14 min read
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How Ted Hoff Invented the First Microprocessor
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The rays of the rising sun have barely reached the foothills of Silicon Valley, but Marcian E. (Ted) Hoff Jr. is already up to his elbows in electronic parts, digging through stacks of dusty circuit boards. This is the monthly flea market at Foothill College, and he rarely misses it.

Ted Hoff is part of electronics industry legend. While a research manager at Intel Corp., then based in Mountain View, he realized that silicon technology had advanced to the point that, with careful engineering, a complete central processor could fit on a chip. Teaming up with Stanley Mazor and Federico Faggin, he created the first commercial microprocessor, the Intel 4004.

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