Intel considers cutting ties with old tech support
Intel has put forth a proposal to streamline the x86 architecture by eliminating outdated features. The company's developer blog recently released a technical note that suggests the introduction of a new x86S architecture, aimed at simplifying the design of future processors and the booting process of personal computers.
The proposed change involves removing 16-bit and certain elements of 32-bit support from the hardware, resulting in a family of processors that would directly boot into x86-64 mode.
By bypassing the conventional series of transitions, which include shifting from 16-bit real mode to 32-bit protected mode and finally to 64-bit long mode, or even skipping the 16-bit mode altogether and directly entering the 64-bit mode, the envisioned processors would offer a more streamlined and efficient startup experience.
Intel has provided an accompanying 46-page technical white paper that delves into extensive details about the potential modifications. While some of these changes are quite drastic, their impact on the average computer user may go unnoticed – and that seems to be Intel's objective.
Maximizing the modern software compatibility
The elimination of rings one and two, which are no longer utilized by modern software, aligns with historical usage patterns. In fact, the vast majority of PC operating systems rely solely on rings zero and three, with the exception of IBM's OS/2 and Novell Netware 4 and above.
Nonetheless, the absence of direct support for these operating systems on future hardware is unlikely to cause significant inconvenience, as they wouldn't even boot on contemporary UEFI machines.
While the removal of ring zero in 32-bit mode may prevent the execution of an x86-32 hypervisor, it is worth noting that the enhanced capabilities and increased memory provided by a 64-bit hypervisor make it a preferable choice. Although the x86-32 mode will not be completely eliminated, its functionality will be notably restricted.
However, it will still be possible to initiate an x86-32 operating system within a virtual machine, as these systems already rely on firmware emulation alongside emulated components such as graphics and network cards.
What does it all mean for newer systems?
Some people might be concerned about these changes, especially if they use older operating systems like DOS or Windows 9X. But the truth is, those systems wouldn't work on newer computers anyway. Intel is just making it official by removing the support for them.
Normally when you turn on your computer, it goes through different steps to get started. But with this new idea, the processors would skip some of those steps and go straight into the newest 64-bit mode. This could make things faster and more efficient.
So, what does all this mean for you? Well, if you have a newer computer, you won't even notice these changes. And if you use a 32-bit operating system, don't worry, you can still run it inside a special virtual environment. Intel just wants to make things simpler and faster for the future.Advertisement