In the few years since Intel release the 386 processor, it has gone from a tremendously overpriced compute engine to the minimum processor for anyone considering purchasing a Pc. Proliferation versions (like the 386SX and AMD's variants) drive the chip cost down while maintaining software compatibility with the rest of the line. It seems those of us in the embedded world could ignore this technology, since so many designs revolve around low performance controllers. Now, however, more and more embedded systems use the 386 series of components. Examples include high speed data communications devices (though in cheap modems the Z80 still reigns supreme), graphics equipment, and ultra-high-speed data acquisition gear. Even the cockpit displays of some modern jetliners use 386's as controllers. Why? What's so great about the 386 that compels a designer to include a $325 processor in his embedded system?