Intel celebrates 50 years of the 4004

November 15, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Intel celebrates 50 years of the 4004
Intel is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 4004, the chip that arguably kickstarted the modern electronics industry.

The Intel 4004 was the world’s first commercially available microprocessor, designed by Federico Faggin, Tedd Hoff and Stan Mazor. This was part of a four chip set for a desktop calculator developed by Nippon Calculating Machine called the Busicom 141-PF, replacing 12 discrete devices.

The 4bit 4004 was launched in November 1971 with 2300 transistors built on a 10um process on a 2in PMOS wafer and delivered in a 16 pin dual in line (DIP) package, clocked at 750kHz.

“This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 4004 chip. Think of how much we’ve accomplished in the past half-century. This is a sacred moment for technology. This is what made computing really take off,” said Pat Gelsinger, CEO of Intel.

“[Looking back at] 1970, it was clear that microprocessors would change the way that we design systems, switching from using hardware to software instead. But the speed with which microprocessors developed over time and were adopted by the industry was really surprising,” said Faggin. “The direction of progress has not always been obvious,” he said. “The capabilities of, for example, having a microprocessor of incredible capacity as a hearing aid, was not obvious in 1971.”

“The 4004 was so revolutionary that it took about five years for Intel to educate engineers about how to build new products based on microprocessors,” saidMazor. “Intel was ultimately very successful in this endeavor, and the rest is history.”

Intel points to research in fields like quantum computing, with the cryogenic Horse Ridge II solution, and neuromorphic computing with the  Loihi 2 chip  as new areas in computing.

As co-founder and CEO of Zilog, Faggin went on to design the Z8 and Z80 microcontroller that is still in production today by Littelfuse. He also co-founded and led Cygnet Technologies, and then Synaptics. Hoff, who was Intel employee number 12, was the first Intel fellow and in 1983 joined Atari before moving to Sega.

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