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The Intel 4004 launched 52 years ago

Accepted submission by DannyB at 2023-11-17 15:20:54 from the it-was-uphill-both-ways dept.

On this day, the Intel 4004, the world's first commercially produced microprocessor, was launched []

The Intel 4004 was released on this day 52 years ago, and it was an incredibly important chip with an interesting history.

On Nov. 15, 1971, the Intel 4004 CPU was released. It was the first commercially produced microprocessor and the first-ever CPU for Intel, which later went on to become a domineering force in the PC industry. It all started thanks to Nippon Calculating Machine Corp. asking Intel to produce 12 custom chips for the Busicom 141-PF printing calculator. Intel's engineers went on to recommend a family of just four chips instead, but one that could be used for a variety of products. These four chips were known as the MCS-4 (Micro Computer System, 4-bit), laying the groundwork for Intel to succeed as one of the most influential companies in modern electronics.

[....] In the Intel 4000 family, these were split up as follows:

  • Intel 4001: A 256-byte 4-bit ROM.
  • Intel 4002: DRAM with four 20-nibble registers. A nibble is four consecutive binary digits, otherwise known as half an 8-bit byte.
  • Intel 4003: I/O with a 10-bit static shift register with serial and parallel outputs.
  • Intel 4004: A CPU.

This system, when fully expanded, could interface with 16 4001 chips for a total of 4KB ROM, 16 4002 chips for 640 bytes of RAM, and any number of Intel 4003 chips. With these designs complete, Busicom went on to prototype the calculator that would use them. In April 1971, they could confirm that the calculator worked, packing one 4004, two 4002, three 4003, and four 4001 chips.

[....] At the time, the Intel 4004 really was as influential as the company made it out to be. It had 2,300 transistors, whereas nowadays, the Apple Silicon M3 Max has 97 billion. It was a massively important chip that changed the course of the computing industry forever, as it was a building block that engineers could purchase to customize with software. It was used in ATMs, pinball machines, and more.

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