Features of the 8086 Microprocessor

By Christian Petersen

The introduction of the 8086 microprocessor in 1978 set the stage for an industry and worldwide standard that would become the basis for the architecture of every computer made today, regardless of the operating system. This chip had a certain set of features that led to it becoming the chip that almost all modern processors are based on.

16-Bit Data Transfer

The 8086 was one of the first chips to use a 16-bit data transfer bus, making it much faster and more software-friendly than older 8-bit chips. This allowed the processor to transfer data faster, greatly increasing speed and increasing possible software capabilities. It also allowed the processor to address larger amounts of memory.

Reverse Compatibility

The 8086 processor was also designed to still be compatible with another popular, but less powerful chip, the 8080. This allowed greater flexibility for PC manufacturers who wanted to be able to offer chips with the greatest compatibility with existing software.

Processor Speed and Memory

The speed of the processor was faster than previous chips. At up to 10 MHz, it outpaced its predecessor, the 8085, by 25 percent. This also allowed it to address much more memory; up to 1 MB of RAM, much more than previous chips.

Co-processor Support

The 8086 microprocessor also supported a supplemental co-processor, sometimes installed on motherboards to perform routine mathematical functions in order to free up processor power for other uses.