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The Intel 8086 was a 16-bit processor developed by Intel starting in 1976 and released on June 9, 1978. It gave rise to the x86 architecture and began the long line of the most successful CPU architecture in the world. It had a 16-bit data bus, 64 KB I/O ports, a 20-bit external bus, and it ran as fast as 10 MHz.
The Intel 8086 can be considered as the grand daddy of all CPUs running in desktop machines today, whether it is a PC or a MAC. Most major Intel processors for the desktop today still retain the Intel x86 architecture at their heart, running as a "virtual 8086" mode.
The Intel 8086 project began in May of 1976 and was originally meant as a stop-gap project that served as a competitor to the Zilog Z80, which quickly captured the mid-range microprocessor market. At the helm of the project was electrical engineer Stephen Morse, who was more of a software engineer than of a hardware one. That software-centric approach to processor design proved to be revolutionary in the industry, and it launched the x86 architecture into stardom despite having a weak launch.
Technically speaking, the Intel 8086 was a microprocessor with a complete 16-bit architecture that had 16-bit registers, a 16-bit data bus and a 20-bit address bus that could reference 1 MB of physical memory. But because of its 16-bit registers, it could only effectively address 64 KB of memory. However, what made this processor special was its segment registers, which allowed it to address beyond 64 KB of memory, which could specify memory locations for the code, data, stack as well as an extra 64 KB of data segment.