Image 1 of 7
On any given day there’s a decent chance you’re within spitting distance of a chip designed by UK tech giant ARM.
The chip designer, which is being acquired by SoftBank for u00a323.4bn, helped craft the circuitry of processors found in 95 percent of the world’s smartphones.
But beyond your phone, ARM-based processors lurk inside many of the machines we use every day — in tablets, hard drives, digital cameras, broadband hubs, TVs, anti-lock brakes, smart cards and computers controlling factory lines.
Here are some of the most high-profile products that rely on ARM-based processors.
This Acorn Archimedes is where it all started for ARM. Acorn was a household name in the UK in the 1980s thanks to the success of BBC Micro, a chunky beige computer that was a staple in UK schools, selling about one and a half million units.
ARM was formed in 1990, when Acorn decided to spin off its research and development division into a joint venture with Apple and the chip manufacturer VLSI.
The company began life designing and licensing high performance 32-bit RISC (reduced instruction set) processors, which were used by Acorn in its Archimedes computer family — its 1987 follow-up to the BBC.
The first generation iPod’s design may look rather clunky today but the 2001 device would help change how the world listened to music.
Holding 1,000 songs, the 5GB MP3 player relied on a dual-core ARM-based CPU running at 90 MHz. To this day, iPods rely on ARM-based chips, with the latest iPod Touch packing processors based on the ARMv8-A architecture.
Following its launch in 2004, the Nintendo DS went on to become the best-selling handheld game console in the world.
Sitting inside the dual-screen device are two ARM-based processors, a main processor clocked at 67 MHz based on the ARM9 family of chips and a 33 MHz co-processor based on the ARM7 family.
Apple was late to the handset party but the impact of the 2007 release can still be seen in smartphones today.
The iPhone’s responsive capacitive touchscreen, the simplicity of its gesture controls, the diversity of its apps and unfettered access to the web combined to make the phone a resounding hit.
The iPhone’s processor, a chip clocked at 412 MHz based on the ARM11 processor family, began a long tradition of iPhones — like most other smartphones today — using ARM-based circuitry.
More than eight million Raspberry Pi computers have shipped since the product launched four years ago.
The popularity of the $35 machine for hacking together software and hardware, or just for using as a budget PC, even took the creators by surprise.
The first Pi to be introduced — the credit card-sized board seen above — packed a 700 MHz processor based on the ARM11 processor family, like the iPhone. The Pi is linked to ARM in more ways than one, in that the Pi’s co-creator Eben Upton was inspired to learn how to code by the BBC Micro created by ARM’s ancestor Acorn.
Microsoft Surface RT
Microsoft’s Surface is designed to be a tablet you can also use as a laptop, courtesy of its detachable keyboard.
Unfortunately its first iteration, released in 2012 and which came to be known as the Surface RT, didn’t succeed, in part because of the small number of Windows apps compatible with its ARM-based hardware.
In July 2013, it became obvious that demand for the first-generation Surface devices had fallen far short of Microsoft’s expectations, and the company signed off a writedown of $900 million to cover the lost revenue.
The tablet was built around the Nvidia Tegra 3 system-on-a-chip, which is based on a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor.