Intel celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first microprocessor on the market

Today Intel celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Intel® 4004, the world’s first commercially available microprocessor. With its introduction in 1971, the 4004 paved the way for modern microprocessor-based computing – the “brain” that makes virtually every technology, from cloud to edge computing, possible. Microprocessors enable the convergence of so-called technological superpowers – ubiquitous computing, pervasive connectivity, cloud-to-edge infrastructures and artificial intelligence – setting the pace of technological innovation, now faster than ever.

“This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 4004 chip. Think about what we have achieved in the last half century. This is a sacred moment for the world of technology. This is the component that really made computing take off!” said Pat Gelsinger, CEO of Intel.

Because it is important

The 4004 was the first microprocessor and its success proved that it was possible to build complex integrated circuits and fit them on a chip the size of a fingernail. His invention also established a new random logic design methodology, on which successive generations of microprocessors were based, before evolving to create the chips we find in devices on the market today.

“[Guardando al] 1970, it was clear that microprocessors would change the way we design systems, moving from hardware to using software. But the speed with which microprocessors have developed and adopted over time is truly amazing, ”commented Federico Faggin, the former Intel employee scientist who designed the Intel 4004 with Tedd Hoff and Stan Mazor.

The next developments

While the 4004 kicked off the era of modern computers with its application in a desktop calculator, the latest 12th generation Intel® Core® processors, which company managers unveiled at the Intel Innovation event in October , will usher in a new era of information technology. The new hybrid architecture of this new family represents a paradigm shift made possible by the co-design of software and hardware and will deliver performance at the highest level for several generations. With research in fields such as quantum computing, with the Intel Horse Ridge II cryogenic solution, and neuromorphic computing, with the Intel Loihi 2 chip, half a century after the Intel 4004, Intel continues to innovate, explore new territories and seek the new frontiers of information technology.

The history of 4004

In 1969, Nippon Calculating Machine Corp. contacted Intel to design a series of integrated circuits for its engineering computer prototype, the Busicom 141-PF. Federico Faggin and his team adapted the original plans to design 12 custom chips and designed a set of four chips, including the 4004 CPU. When it was introduced, the 4004 provided, on a surface the size of a human fingernail, the same computing power as the first electronic computer built in 1946, which occupied an entire room.