Vintage Computer Manuals

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Thursday, August 10, 2006



The 486 was a more affiancing design than the lowly 386. It incorporated a built in 8 kb cache and cache controller (kb as opposed to megabyte which is 1000 kb). As well a Math Coprocessor, better architecture and memory management for 32 bit operations were part of the package. The cache gave a boost to overall performance while still using the relatively inexpensive dynamic random access memory (DRAM),DRAM was a volatile type of main memory.

Cache serves a simple way to speed up the 486 computer. The cache anticipated the next instructions based on what was being done and stored it in a hiding place in memory. Then when the instructions or data was needed it was retrieved fairly rapidly from the hiding place in memory.

A 486 could process 32-bit instructions much faster than any 386. However DOS based software as it was written primarily for 8 and 16-bit systems could not take advantage of these advances.

OS/2 a multitasking operating system developed by Microsoft and Windows 3.0 and later 3.1 are able to take full advantage of the 486’s features.


The 486DX2 was a peculiar chip that ran internally twice as fast the external system. In other words, if a machine was designed to run a 25 MHZ 486, you could put in the 50 MHZ 486DX2 and it would work fine without any major changes to the rest of the computer. It would not run as fast as a 50 MHZ 486DX though. Only the innards of the CPU are running as fast on a DX2 chip – the rest of the computer is running at the speed designated around the 25 MHZ chip. This is a little confusing, but suffice to say that a 50 MHZ 486DX had more performance than a 50 MHZ 486DX2. Perhaps this however was little more than an Intel marketing gimmick.


The 486SX was a slowed down 486.
It ran at 16, 20 and 25 MHZ. Basically in a 486SX the math coprocessor chip was disabled. The 486SX was a budget entry level chip meant to upgrade users from their 386 at less cost. Or it may have been seen as the 2 door car to get you into the car showroom or steer you away from competitors.

Lastly the 80486DX3

These were IBM licensed chips that were clock tripled 486 chips running at 75 MHZ and 99 MHZ (called conveniently 100 MHZ speed)

The Intel versions were called the DX4

It needs not be said that these chips were far than overshadowed by later Pentium processors of the same or greater speeds.

Generally the speed of the computer CPU goes more than family than speed. That is a 75 MHZ (later model) Pentium will almost certainly beat out a 100 MHZ 486 CPU.

Vintage Computer Manuals


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