Intel recalled a major chip in 1995 and turned them into keychains inscribed by the CEO — and the message speaks to Intel’s current crisis

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Wikipedia/Konstantin Lanzet

  • Intel recalled the Pentium P5 chip in 1995 that produced errors for certain calculations.
  • The recalled chips were turned into keychains for Intel employees.
  • The keychains had an inscription from former Intel CEO Andy Grove that became the company’s mantra, and also applies to Intel’s current chip crisis.

If Intel has a calendar that counted the time since its last disaster – at least public ones we know about – it would have counted 24 years.

Back in 1994, a bug was discovered in the Pentium P5 family of chips Intel released in 1993 that would cause the chips to incorrectly calculate certain equations. Most users weren’t impacted by the bug. But a New York Times Business Day article from 1994 suggested that scientists and engineers who “rely on their machines for precise calculations” had some reason for concern.

In the end, Intel recalled nearly a million of the flawed chips. But instead of trashing or recycling them, the company turned some of them into keychains that were handed out to Intel employees in 1995, according to a site that specializes in vintage chip memorabilia, ChipsEtc.

intel keyring

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ChipsEtc

You might be thinking that the keychains were designed to remind Intel employees of the errors made during the Pentium P5’s development whenever they took out their car or house keys. But it wasn’t quite as hard-hearted as that.

Inscribed on the back of the keychain was an inspirational message from then-Intel CEO Andy Grove that read:

“Bad companies are destroyed by crises; good companies survive them; great companies are improved by them.”

intel pentium keyring

source
ChipsEtc

Indeed, speaking to Tech Radar in back in 2014 – the 20th anniversary of the recall – Intel veteran Tom Waldrop said that the company “survived the crisis and was made stronger by it.” He goes on to say that Intel changed the way it validated its products to catch errors.

The company had a good run since 1994, as few – if any – major chip errors were discovered. But that run came to an end in late 2017 and early 2018 when a design flaw was discovered in Intel chips released in the last few years.

The recently discovered design flaw in Intel chips appears far worse than the 1994 Pentium P5 chip’s flaw, as it places the security of a huge number of devices at risk.

To be sure, Intel isn’t the only chip maker affected, as other chip makers like ARM also contain the flaw.

So far, the company hasn’t issued a recall for chips affected with the flaw, nor is there any indication that any chips will be turned into keychains. Instead, the company has worked with its competitors, operating system vendors, and original equipment vendors to issue software and firmware updates containing fixes for the issue.

We’ll have to see if the updates – which will begin rolling out starting in the next few days – will do the trick, or whether we’ll see a slew of Intel employees brandishing flashy new chip keychains with another inspirational message a couple of years from now.