AMD retires 3DNow!

August 20, 2010 | 10:52

Tags: #mmx #simd #x86

Companies: #amd #intel

AMD has announced the end of an era with the news that future processors will no longer support the legacy 3DNow! instruction set.

According to TechConnect, the end is nigh with the technology due for retirement and not to be included in any future AMD processors - marking the end of a twelve-year run for the technology.

3DNow! - yes, as it was invented back in the 90s, the exclamation mark is part of its name - was an enhanced version of Intel's MMX (MultiMedia eXtensions) instruction set, developed by AMD back in 1998 to provide single instruction multiple data (SIMD) instructions in hardware for simple vector processing tasks.

First appearing in the AMD K6-2 series of processors, applications compiled with 3DNow! support could enjoy a speed boost of around two to four times on certain data manipulation tasks - usually related to graphics-intensive operations. As a result, both 3DNow! and Intel's rival MMX achieved a degree of popularity with games developers. AMD's technology helped to mask the poor floating point performance of the K6-2 series relative to Intel's rival Pentium II.

Since then, 3DNow! has been a feature of all AMD processors, but with AMD's support of SSE (Streaming SIMD Extensions) and its later incarnations the technology has become somewhat redundant. Accordingly, AMD has decided to save silicon by removing it from its processor specifications for good.

The only portion of the technology to continue on into future processor designs - unless you count SSE as being an 'upgraded' 3DNow! - will be a pair of instructions originally developed for 3DNow!: PREFETCH and PREFETCHW.

Are you sad to see 3DNow! disappear, or just pleased that processor manufacturers are pruning older instructions from the set in order to prevent x86 from becoming too bloated? Can you remember scouring the shelves for games bearing the 3DNow! or MMX logo in order to make use of your shiny new hardware? Share your thoughts and nostalgic memories over in the forums.
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