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.

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11. Intel Pentium (1993)

Breakthrough application: Brand-name processors

After a court rejected trademarking "386" in a 1991 ruling, Intel realized that it would need to move beyond mere numbers in naming its widely anticipated new processor, which had been known as the 586. So the processor giant devised a unique, easy-to-trademark identity: Pentium.

Initially critics ridiculed the name, but in fact the Pentium opened a new era in consumer-microprocessor marketing. No longer were CPUs referred to solely by numbers such as 286, 386, and 486; instead they carried a brand name that resonated in the public consciousness.

That brand gave Intel processors a certain cachet that computer owners could easily brag about. Rival manufacturers could no longer produce clones and call them "486" or the like--a chip was either a real Pentium or a knock-off. The trademarked CPU became a status symbol, and it remains so today.

Photo: CPU-World.com

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Slideshow: The 11 most influential microprocessors ever

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