How did a single game lead to the shake-up of an entire industry, and sounded the death knell of an entire corporation?

We talk about Intel and AMD in the CPU industry all the time, but there was another competitor in the party. Until id Software’s Quake moved things around for this third participant.

A Cyrix advertisement in PC Magazine, June 1990 (Vol. 9, №11). It is an absolute treat to go through these old magazines. And just like all abandonware and obscure internet treasures, I found the whole collection of magazines on The Internet Archive.

Who were they, then?

Cyrix’s logo throughout their lifespan. From Wikimedia Commons
A Cyrix Cx486. Note the 486 AND 386 designations written together. By Konstantin Lanzet (Wikimedia Commons)
I found out that these things are actually auctioned today as novelties of a time long since relegated to the archives of personal computing history. And if I’m being honest, I’d be interested in such a thing myself. From WorthPoint.

Gen 5: Pentium® (and its clones for company)

A familiar sight for many back in the day. Credit: Logopedia

6x86, id Software and Quake (with a trip to the archives of Usenet)

First pages of a Cyrix 6x86 information flyer. Find the whole thing here, for exciting new offers on a brand-new Cyrix powered system, now with business lease offers, and avail the upgrade to a (whopping!) 4.2GB hard drive at a never-heard-before cost!
After Doom and Wolfenstein, Quake is one of the most important parts ofid Software’s legacy. By Source, Fair use,
One of the earliest articles posted by the now-highy regarded Anandtech was a test of the Cyrix 6x86 (more particularly, an upgraded 6x86 that added support for MMX instructions, which could only be added after Intel’s licensing. But it was still the same processor.) running Quake on Windows (WinQuake). Notice the highest framerate being barely playable on the higher-priced 200MHz chip (29.7 fps) , and still lesser on the 166MHz chip. This framerate is also at a 320x200 render resolution, which was too low for a proper experience of the game. Source.
Comparing with the above benchmark, this is the result we see when we pit the Pentium chips of that time at speeds equal to, and lower than the 6x86 seen above, at Quake, at the lowest resolution. Cyrix’s highest-speed processor has barely the framerates of Intel’s Pentium 120 (29.8 fps), a lower-priced chip at that time, demonstrating the gap between the two competing chips. Source.

The Aftermath

The Later Years

Arguably the last of Cyrix’s work, the Geode, which was worked on by AMD till it was stopped being made in 2019. By AMD, uploaded by Kozuch, Attribution

Intel vs. AMD, a rivalry since the 20th Century.



Computer hardware enthusiast. Electrical Engineering undergrad student. Business enquiries: yatharthsood00 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Yatharth Sood

Computer hardware enthusiast. Electrical Engineering undergrad student. Business enquiries: yatharthsood00 (at) gmail (dot) com.