ARM > Introduction to ARM > ARM Ltd.

by David Thomas on

ARM Ltd.

  • ARM Ltd. were founded in November 1990 as Advanced RISC Machines Ltd.
  • A joint venture between Acorn Computers, Apple Computer and VLSI Technology.
  • An intellectual property company.
  • It is “fabless”: it does not fabricate chips itself.
  • Designs the ARM family of processors.
  • Licenses these designs to partners who in turn fabricate them and sell them to their customers.
  • Controls the ARM architecture.


The ARM processor originated within British computer company Acorn. In 1983, when designing the successor to the BBC Micro series of computers, which were widely used in UK schools, they were looking for replacement for its 6502 processor. None of the 16-bit architectures becoming available at that time met their requirements, so they designed their own 32-bit processor. It was the world’s first commercial RISC processor.

Later, other companies became interested in this processor, including Apple who were looking for a processor for their PDA project (which became the Newton MessagePad). After much discussion this led to Acorn’s processor design team splitting off from Acorn at the end of 1990 to become Advanced RISC Machines Ltd, now just ARM Ltd.

Thus ARM Ltd. now designs the ARM family of RISC processor cores, together with a range of other supporting technologies.

One important point about ARM Ltd. is that it does not fabricate silicon itself, but instead produces designs – ARM is an Intellectual Property (or IP) company. Instead silicon is produced by companies who license the ARM processor designs. ARM controls the architecture too (so no-one can just make an ARM compatible chip).