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Why are they called Pentium, Athlon, etc.?

Most users use the products without knowing much beyond their technical characteristics at most, but few know the origin of the trademarks and the many curiosities they contain. We are therefore going to review at least the trademarks best known and explain why they are called what they are called so that you can know a little better their origins.

The origin of the names of the most popular CPUs

Let’s start by talking about the processors Intel Pentium, possibly the best known CPU brand because they were the ones that followed the famous 486, where Intel broke its nomenclature for the first time since in theory these processors should have been called 586.

Before the arrival of this trademark, Intel processors simply used a numeric code in their nomenclature, something that was very common at that time. Thus, we had processors like the 8086, the 286, 386, 486…. and instead of 586 came the Pentium brand that is still used even today. This name comes from the Greek word “pente” which means “five” and the Latin ending -ium to form a neuter name. So, as you can see, Intel didn’t completely “break” the 80×86 naming nomenclature.

We continue with Intel with its processors Celeron, which they also continue to use to this day. It is the low-cost version of the Pentiums that were named after the Latin root «Celer» which means fast since at that time the operating speed of the processors began to skyrocket, and with the Celeron Intel had the «throne »Of the fastest processors of the moment.

Intel Celeron

Other Intel processors are Xeon, reserved for the professional environment but still used today. First introduced in June 1998, these processors were based on the same architecture as the desktop processors but with more cores, more cache, support for ECC memory and in greater numbers, more PCIe lanes and a long etcetera. That is why the name Xeon comes to mean something like strength and reliability.

Intel Xeon

We go to AMD with its famous processors Athlon, which they also continue to use even in this modern age. This trademark is a name that comes from ancient Greek and which means “prize, trophy, reward” but also “contest, tournament, competition”, and as you may suppose it is called that because when they were introduced they expected to present strong competition to Intel (and take the “award” to the best processor, of course).

We continue with the processors Duron Y Sempron of the brand, also registered names that have to do with its robustness, durability and reliability. Although there is not a completely concise explanation regarding the names of these CPUs, it seems that Duron comes from the Latin “durare on” or durable unit; For their part, the Sempron processors that were their successors, have a name that comes from the Latin “Semper”, always referring to their durability and reliability.

We continue with the names that AMD has given to its CPUs with the famous Phenom, whose safe name that you already imagine comes from “phenomenon”, and is that they really were a phenomenon at the time they arrived on the market, especially for their excellent performance and potential for overclocking.

We have saved the names used in modern CPUs for last, such as Core on the Intel side and Ryzen in AMD’s. As for the Intel Core processors, basically the manufacturer limited itself to calling them as the nomenclature of its Core architecture without more, and they do not have any deep or significant meaning (worth the redundancy) beyond that they were introduced in the era in which processors began to have multiple cores, since Core means core in English.

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X Processor

Name Ryzen it is something more complicated, or deeper depending on how you want to see it. Obviously the suffix -zen refers to AMD’s Zen architecture, but what about RY-? AMD has never discussed the meaning of this name, but we can understand it in two different ways; -ry as a prefix can come from re, which means “again” or “again”, as if saying “we are back” which is indeed what Ryzen meant for AMD: the return to the market and competitiveness with Intel. In English RY can also be used as a suffix (and not as a prefix) which is a contraction of -ery, which in this case would mean something like “the Zen saga” altogether.

The code names of the processors

The names in code, names in code or “codenames” in English are used to name the microarchitectures or generations of processors, fundamentally. For example, we have seen names of cities (like Barcelona) or of mountains, rivers, lakes, volcanoes or even things (like Bulldozer) in the case of AMD that seem to have no concrete meaning. For example, in the past AMD has used names like Palomino, Corvette, Rhea, Zeus etc., but the only ones that really had any meaning were the processors Kryptonite of the brand (the AMD K5, K7, etc.), since they wanted it to be the “Kryptonite” (the famous element that weakens Superman) from Intel.

As for Intel we return to the same, the code names of its generations such as Sandy Bridge, Haswell or Rocket Lake do not have any intrinsic meaning beyond giving their architectures a proper name.

The hidden works of art in CPUs

Here we enter the field of curiosities. Nowadays it is rare to see something like this, but in the past what was called «Silicon Art»(Also known as chip graffiti or silicon doodling) which consisted of hiding works of art in the chips, usually in the frames near the pads. It is an art almost on a microscopic level that not many people know but that was quite fashionable at the time. For example, in the following image you can see a buffalo created on a HP3582a IC chip.


This type of decorative art does not make much sense for users since it is something that is not seen with the naked eye, not to mention that it would be necessary to remove the IHS from the chip to be able to see it and then have to use a microscope, but not because this is no longer a curiosity. These designs are engraved during the manufacturing process, that is, the lithographic machines themselves engrave them on the chips, so these “easter eggs” come from the chip design itself.

Excavator on a chip

In the past, these Silicon Art made certain sense since they were used as a kind of watermark to detect counterfeits and copyright violations (if the competition copied a chip this could serve to obtain evidence of it), but since 1984 it entered The Semiconductor Chip Protection Art Act came into force in the US and this stopped making any sense. However, it is still the sea of ​​curious, right?