The World's First Chip-Based CPU Turned 40 Today

Who would have thought the future'd start with an ad in the back of Electronic News? But, on November 15, 1971 Intel announced its new 4004 processor -- the first commercially available computer processor manufactured on a chip -- and helped to usher in the Digital Age.

Federico Faggin, Stanley Mazor, and Ted Hoff share credit for designing the 4-bit device. The 4004 actually grew out of the specialised LSI chipset invented by Japanese firm Busicom for use in their 141-PF calculators. However, the LSI's fabrication was too unwieldy to mass produce, so Intel redesigned it to fit on a standard 16-pin DIP package.

The 4004 was also the first product to employ Silicon Gate Technology PMOS logic -- which Faggin had developed in the late '60s -- as well as the first to be built using the metal-oxide-silicon (MOS) process. The results -- for the time at least -- were nothing short of stunning. It packed in 2,300 transistors onto its form each with a feature size of 10 micron and operated at a speedy 740KHz -- that's 92,000 instructions per second.

Sure, the 4004 can't begin to compare to modern chips -- Sandy Bridge chips cram nearly a half billion transistors into their forms -- but without its first steps of a primordial digital ooze, many -- if not all -- of our new modern conveniences, including the computer I'm writing this on, the computer you're reading it with, and all the network between us, would be simply impossible. [Wikipedia - ExtremeTech]