Intel offers free chip license to US Gov't

Intel is giving a royalty-free license for its Pentium processor design to the US Government, which will custom-make chips for space and defense use.

Intel and the US Department of Energy (DoE) outlined the agreement at a press conference and in a written statement. The design license will go to DoE's Sandia National Laboratories, which handles the government's microelectronics research and development.

Sandia plans to create a radiation-hardened Pentium processor for satellites, space vehicles and defense purposes, according to the statement. Radiation hardening protects computer systems and applications from radiation that can foul electronic functions.

Fast design changes have left the government unable to afford to design new integrated circuits that can withstand radiation, the statement said.

Besides Sandia, the National Atmospheric and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the National Reconnaissance Office will work on the new Pentium design.

This isn't the first time that Intel has offered a royalty-free chip license to Sandia. The company had a similar arrangement in the 1980s for other microcontrollers and also built the teraflop computer, capable of 1 trillion operations per second, for Sandia in 1995.

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