Intel 4004 is announced, November 15, 1971

-November 15, 2017

Intel 4004 microprocessorIntel announced its 4004 processor and its chipset through an ad in Electronic News on November 15, 1971, making them the first complete CPU on one chip and the first commercially available microprocessor.

The building-block 4004 CPU held 2300 transistors. The microprocessor, the size of a little fingernail, delivered the same computing power as the first electronic computer built in 1946, which, in contrast, filled a room. Full technical details for the 4004 can be found in this January 1972 EDN story on the technology: One-Chip CPU available for low-cost dedicated computers.
The Intel 4004 became the first general-purpose programmable processor on the market after Nippon Calculating Machine Corp approached Intel in 1969 to design 12 custom chips for its new Busicom 141-PF printing calculator. According to Intel’s online museum page on the 4004: Intel engineers suggested a family of just four chips, including one that could be programmed for use in a variety of products, setting in motion an engineering feat that dramatically altered the course of electronics.

Rumor says that NASA’s Pioneer 10 spacecraft (the first craft to reach the outer planets) utilized a 4004. However, NASA has said that while it did evaluate the 4004, it was believed to be too new for the Pioneer 10.

On October 15, 2010, Federico Faggin and Ted Hoff, chief engineers on the 4004, were awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Barack Obama for their pioneering work.

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Editor's note: This article was originally posted on November 15, 2012 and edited on November 15, 2017.

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