x87 is a floating point-related subset of the x86 architecture instruction set. It originated as an extension of the 8086 instruction set in the form of optional floating point coprocessors that worked in tandem with corresponding x86 CPUs. These microchips had names ending in "87". The x87 instruction set includes instructions for basic floating point operations such as addition, subtraction and comparison, but also for more complex numerical operations, such as the computation of the tangent function and its inverse, for example.
Most x86 processors since the Intel 80486 have had these x87 instructions implemented in the main CPU but the term is sometimes still used to refer to that part of the instruction set. Before x87 instructions were standard in PCs, compilers or programmers had to use rather slow library calls to perform floating-point operations, a method that is still common in (low-cost) embedded systems.
All die pictures were taken by Pauli Rautakorpi and are published under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Slightly edited by HARDWARECOP (exposure adjustments).
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