Slideshow: The 11 most influential microprocessors ever

In the wide field of microprocessors, some chips have stood out for the influence they've had technologically, culturally, and economically. They aren't necessarily the most successful, the best selling, or the most powerful, but they each started an important and persistent trend - an architecture, a marketing concept, or a whole new use for computing.

7. AMD Opteron 240 (2003)

Breakthrough application: IBM server hardware

Developing computing technology is as much about change as anything else. So when it came time to move from the 32-bit world to the 64-bit world, Intel tried its hand with Itanium, a 64-bit processor that had 32-bit support. Unfortunately, the Itanium ran existing 32-bit code slowly.

Meanwhile, AMD was busy extending Intel's existing x86 instruction set to incorporate 64-bit support without any performance cost on 32-bit software. Known as "x86-64" or "AMD64," this instruction-set design premiered in the AMD Opteron 240. The design was so effective that Intel adopted it as well, incorporating the instruction set into all of the x86 processor lines except Itanium.

All desktop-PC microprocessors manufactured today use Opteron's x86-64 instruction set, and the standard will likely persist for many years to come.

Photos: CPU-World.com, AMD

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