Monday, November 15th 2021

Intel Celebrates 50th Anniversary of the Intel 4004 Processor

Today, Intel celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Intel 4004, the world's first commercially available microprocessor. With its launch in November 1971, the 4004 paved the path for modern microprocessor computing - the "brains" that make possible nearly every modern technology, from the cloud to the edge. Microprocessors enable the convergence of the technology superpowers - ubiquitous computing, pervasive connectivity, cloud-to-edge infrastructure and artificial intelligence - and create a pace of innovation that is moving faster today than ever.

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, Intel CEO. The 4004 is the pioneer 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. Its invention also established a new random logic design methodology, one that subsequent generations of microprocessors would be built upon, before evolving to create the chips found in today's modern devices.
"[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 Federico Faggin, former Intel engineer who designed and produced the Intel 4004 with Tedd Hoff and Stan Mazor.

While the 4004 delivered the modern computing era through the design and production of the first commercially available microprocessor for a desktop calculator, the latest 12th Gen Intel Core processors - which company leaders revealed at the Intel Innovation event in October - will usher in a new era of computing. The performance hybrid architecture of this new family represents an architectural shift made possible by close co-engineering of software and hardware and will deliver new levels of leadership performance for generations. And with research in fields like quantum computing, with the cryogenic Intel Horse Ridge II solution, and neuromorphic computing, with the Intel Loihi 2 chip, Intel continues to innovate, explore new territories and push the limits of computing.

In 1969, Nippon Calculating Machine Corp. approached Intel about designing a set of integrated circuits for its engineering prototype calculator, the Busicom 141-PF. Intel engineer Faggin and his team adapted the original plans for 12 custom chips and designed a set of four chips - including the 4004 CPU - that met the challenge. Ultimately, the 4004, at the size of a human fingernail, delivered the same computing power as the first electronic computer built in 1946, which filled an entire room.
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19 Comments on Intel Celebrates 50th Anniversary of the Intel 4004 Processor

#1
lynx29
1971 human fingernail sized power = entire room PC 1946... I have to say it really is impressive.

*looks at the 5nm processor in my ipad mini* SO MUCH POWER!!!!!
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#2
R0H1T
What's with the prophetic apocalyptic guesstimates(?) lynx how will we get WW3 by 2035 o_O
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#3
Crackong
So they will have a i5 4004 (12400)?
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#4
ARF
Where did they get this technology from? Fallen alien saucer, UFO?
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#5
Wirko
CrackongSo they will have a i5 4004 (12400)?
Given Intel's current numbering, the only possibility would be a Xeon Silver 4004K with 20 Ice Lake cores at 1971 MHz base and 4004 MHz turbo.
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#6
Caring1
ARFWhere did they get this technology from? Fallen alien saucer, UFO?
IBM. ;)
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#7
bug
lynx291971 human fingernail sized power = entire room PC 1946... I have to say it really is impressive.

*looks at the 5nm processor in my ipad mini* SO MUCH POWER!!!!!
That's just 25 years of progress, as opposed to the 50 that have past since.
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#8
Tigger
I'm the only one
ARFWhere did they get this technology from? Fallen alien saucer, UFO?
Balloons don't need IC's in them
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#11
bug
TiggerJulius Edgar Lilienfeld

It seems the guys at Bell labs used his designs for their work on inventing the transistor.
"Standing on the shoulders of giants" - nothing we accomplish today wouldn't be possible in the absence of what those before us accomplished.
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#12
lynx29
bug"Standing on the shoulders of giants" - nothing we accomplish today wouldn't be possible in the absence of what those before us accomplished.
and if Isaac Newton was not a virgin, its very possible we would have nothing to this day.
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#13
Maenad
S.T.A.R.S.
I remember when Intel released its documents 15 years ago. I still don't get much of it like I didn't as a teen back then, but interesting stuff anyway.
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#14
QuietBob
Whether Intel was the first to create the microprocessor is still open for debate. At least two highly integrated circuits were implemented prior to 1971. The Four-Phase Systems Model IV/70 utilized three AL1 8-bit CPUs, and the Garrett AiResearch CADC ran the MP944 CPU.

Two other microprocessors were released in the same year as the 4004, the Pico Electronics/General Instrument PICO1/GI250 and the Texas Instruments TMS 1802NC.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microprocessor#First_projects
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#15
bug
QuietBobWhether Intel was the first to create the microprocessor is still open for debate. At least two highly integrated circuits were implemented prior to 1971. The Four-Phase Systems Model IV/70 utilized three AL1 8-bit CPUs, and the Garrett AiResearch CADC ran the MP944 CPU.

Two other microprocessors were released in the same year as the 4004, the Pico Electronics/General Instrument PICO1/GI250 and the Texas Instruments TMS 1802NC.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microprocessor#First_projects
The assertion is "first commercially available microprocessor".
But you're right, history has a habit of recording the first and forgetting about others that usually miss the mark by a whisker, making it look like the winner ran by themselves.
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#16
Aquinus
Resident Wat-man
bugThe assertion is "first commercially available microprocessor".
But you're right, history has a habit of recording the first and forgetting about others that usually miss the mark by a whisker, making it look like the winner ran by themselves.
Well, exaggeration aside Intel did pave the path forward for a lot of what we have today and the 4004 was one of the earliest examples of it. It's definitely worth calling out Intel's contributions.
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#17
Maenad
S.T.A.R.S.
der8auer lapped one down

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#18
ArcanisGK507
So what can we say: that computer technology exists and is 2000 times more powerful than 100 years ago IN THEORY ... but that neither the software nor the global infrastructure can extract the theoretical power and bring it to reality?
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#19
R-T-B
ARFWhere did they get this technology from? Fallen alien saucer, UFO?
R&D?
ArcanisGK507So what can we say: that computer technology exists and is 2000 times more powerful than 100 years ago IN THEORY ... but that neither the software nor the global infrastructure can extract the theoretical power and bring it to reality?
Even with the massive losses due to various inefficiencies, we've come a very long way.
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