A Brief History of ARM Holdings
It was on 26th April 1985 (at 3pm to be precise) that the very first ARM silicon sprang in to life - it was a 25K transistor design implemented in 3um technology with just 2 layers of metal.
However back then the "A" in ARM stood for Acorn – ARM the company had yet to be formed. Acorn sold computers to schools and so cost was a prime concern, this meant that when it came to replace the aging 8bit 6502 in the BBC Micro with a more powerful microprocessor it had to be cheap.
Unfortunately the commercially available alternatives at the time were simply not cheap enough and so Hermann Hauser, the Managing Director of Acorn, decided that Acorn should build its own 32bit microprocessor – however he gave the ARM design team two distinct advantages over other microprocessor design teams – no money and no people! So the design had to be simple and straight forward, indeed the first ARM reference model was written in just 808 lines of Basic.
Interestingly, although the ARM silicon worked first time, it appeared to be consuming no power at all, at least that is what the ammeter said. It turned out that the test board had a fault that meant the ARM was effectively unpowered and was running solely on leakage from the I/Os. This low power consumption was a valuable side effect of making the ARM cheap and turned out to be the key to its success in the emerging mobile electronics market.
1990: ARM Ltd. Founded
In the early 1990s Apple was developing a “Personal Digital Assistant” called Newton and were looking for a low power processor to power it. Apple was very interested in ARM but were reluctant to base a product on Acorn’s IP and so ARM Ltd. was founded on 27th
November 1990 as a joint venture between Apple, Acorn, and VLSI Technology. The first office was in a beautiful 17C converted barn just outside Cambridge UK