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]