What is X86?
x86 refers to the family of microprocessors built by Intel since 1978. This microprocessor or CPU architecture involves a set of instructions on how the computer’s CPU or central processing unit will use and/or store data resources like I/O and/or RAM or random access memory. x86 has become the most successful CPU architecture and so many other companies manufacture their computer chips based on the Intel standard or at least geared towards full compatibility with it. Because of Intel’s x86 series, the company became the biggest and most trusted in the computer chips market and industry. Competitors are somewhat left with no choice but to adhere and follow the lead of Intel in making their own microprocessor chip systems and architecture.
The term “x86” comes from the last two digits of Intel microprocessors that started to carry this Intel-pioneered system or architecture, specifically the Intel 8086 CPU. This particular CPU/microprocessor architecture was an upgrade to the 8-bit 8080 CPU. The 8086 came out with a full 16-bit extension back in 1978. Over time, various upgrades and extensions were added to the x86 architecture and this included backward compatibility features to work efficiently with older versions of computer CPUs.
After the original 8086 CPU architecture, the number “86” is re-used in succeeding versions like 80286, 80386, and 80486. The numbered chips eventually gave way to the more recent Pentium line, Core line, and the latest chip lines of today. These “name” chips are sometimes referred to as “686” chips to designate their connection to the original x86 architecture despite the fact that they no longer have “86” on their labels.
Today, most computer software companies fully support the x86 CPU architecture. Popular operating systems like Microsoft’s Windows, Apple’s Mac OS X, Solaris, Linux and even DOS support CPU architectures based on Intel’s pioneering and successful x86 standard.