Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Happy 40th To Intel's First Microprocessor - The Start Of The Digital Revolution

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 15, 2011

Intel hands out cup cakes in New York city.

Intel today celebrates the 40th anniversary of its first microprocessor -- the 4004. It was a 4-bit chip, puny by today's standards but revolutionary at the time because it was the first commercially available programmable microprocessor.

Compared to Intel's current Core microprocessors (995 million transistors), each of the 2,300 4004 transistors used 5,000 times as much energy and had just 1/350,000th of the performance.

If Moore's Law did not exist and the same manufacturing process were used, today's Core microprocessor would be 23ft by 10ft -- the size of a room!

With the current 22nm process technology, Intel could fit 2,600 4004s in the space of this period.

Here is the 4004 designer, Federico Faggin:

But microprocessors weren't the main goal of Intel, it became a leading memory chip maker. However, stiff competition from Japanese chip companies forced it abandon that market and concentrate on the much more profitable microprocessor business -- where it now dominates in nearly every sector -- except mobile, an irritating thorn in its side.

Here's a lot more on the 4004: 40th Anniversary of the Microprocessor


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