How Apple’s M1 chip compares to the first ARM chip ARM1 from 1985

Apple’s recently announced M1 chip, also known as Apple Silicon, has been compared to ARM’s first chip called ARM1, which was released in 1985. The comparison is very interesting and the details show how far technology has come along, and how complex today’s chips are.

Apple’s M1 chip vs first ARM chip ARM1

Ken Shirriff, who is into computer history and has worked on a number of highly interesting projects with old computers, shared the comparison using the ‘how it started vs how it’s going’ meme template. As the images in the tweet below show, the ARM1 processor with just 25,000 transistors, was far less complex than Apple’s 8-core M1 chip based on 5nm process, which consists of 16 billion transistors.

The ARM1 processor was made by Acorn computers in 1985 for BBC Micro computer, by just two designers: Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber. It takes a huge team to design these new chips now. Back then, ARM was an acronym for Acorn RISC Machine, but the name was changed to just ARM as Apple was one of the founders of the company and did not want a competitor’s name in the joint venture’s name.

The original single-core ARM1 processor has a whopping clock speed of 6 MHz, while the 8-core M1 has a clock speed of 3.2 GHz. This represents a performance increase of almost 500 times.

Back in the 80s, Apple used the ARM 610 processor in its Newton handheld, while was a portable touch-screen device, with a stylus and handwriting recognition. It ended up to be a failure, but seems to be the device that laid the groundwork for Apple did with iPhone. This also shows how Apple’s experience with chips goes back even before the A-series chips became a thing for iPhone and iPad. Apple’s experience with ARM chips and PowerPC processors has played a pivotal role for where the company stands now in terms of processing speeds that beat every other x86 chip in the market.

Check out the complete thread by Ken Shirriff here.

Read more:

About the Author

Snapchatter and Apple fangirl, covers everything about social media, app reviews and Apple news.