THE 300A IS DEAD!

Screams the headline. The very next day we see;

NO, THE 300A LIVES!

Or:

ALL NEW CELERONS ARE BUS-LOCKED!

And then:

NO, INTEL IS NOT BUS-LOCKING!

The speed at which the web transmits information is both a boon and a bane. We know in an instant when important news is breaking, but the natural tendency for inaccuracy, when this information travels thru several sources, is magnified by the lightening speed of electronic transmission.

We find information posted at one web site from a "reliable" source, then surf to the next site and find diametrically opposing news, also from a "reliable" source. We read with interest e-mail from an alleged Intel employee only to return the next day and find that the mail has been pulled because this "source" fears retribution.

For those of us who love the challenge of taking the system to the brink, of squeezing out that last micron of performance, the 300A is, or was, the most exciting accident ever to happen to Geekdom. It is frustrating, and more than a little maddening, to not know what is going on.

Well, after a little research, a little logical deduction and, well, just plain guessing, I've come to two conclusions: The Slot One 300A is out of production, and the new Celerons are not bus-locked. These are my opinions, and I hope I'm right on the second point, and would dearly love to be wrong on the first.

Before we move on, I'll tell you that I did grab a 400A this week and had a chance to put it on the bench and give it a workout. More on that later, right now...

Is the Slot One 300A just a memory?

There are two things that tell me that it is. The first is supply, or actually lack of it. The CPU, at least in the retail flavor, has become damned hard to find. What were once 100 chip orders at one price have quickly become 50 chip orders at a higher price. I was still able to find processors this week, but they're commanding a hefty premium. Also, before it was a simple matter of telling my supplier, "Get me a hundred chips", and after a quick phone call, the order was on it's way.

That has become a dozen phone calls to scrape up 50 chips from multiple sources. Even the giant distributors such as Ingram Micro and Tech Data can no longer get inventory. But, since these guys buy in the thousands and tens of thousands, they are first to run dry. The smaller suppliers and retailers still have a few because they're not demanding such large purchases. So supply is definitely drying up.

Part two of the equation comes directly from Intel itself. While others are speculating and gobbling up reports from second and third hand sources, I headed over to the main source. I clipped this directly from Intels developer web site:

Product Change Notification

Nov 30, 1998:

First shipments of boxed Intel Celeron processors in PPGA package are scheduled to begin.

Dec 1998:

Boxed Intel Celeron processors ship in both S.E.P.P. and PPGA packages under separate product codes and s-specs

Q1 1999:

Intel plans to ship the majority of boxed Celeron processors in PPGA packages

Q2 1999:

The transition is scheduled to be completed in early Q2. All SKUs of boxed Celeron processors are planned to be 100% transitioned to the PPGA form factor.

This tells me that, at the very least, the boxed version is no longer being produced. After all, if they have clearly stated as early as November of last year, that the majority of Retail Celerons shipped in Q1, '99 would be the socket version, and that the Slot version would be completely phased out by Q2, why would they continue to manufacture it? The answer is, they wouldn't.

It is, however, possible that the OEM version of the slot 300A is still being made. I would assume that Intel would wish to aid the others in the Big Boys Fraternity to unload their existing inventory of Slot Celery motherboards. But, I've got a hunch that there is enough of this version in existing inventory to satisfy the need.

So, I have concluded that, sadly, the joy ride will soon be over.

Bus Locking?