Intel 4004 is announced, November 15, 1971
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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For more moments in tech history, see this blog. EDN strives to be historically accurate with these postings. Should you see an error, please notify us.
Editor's note: This article was originally posted on November 15, 2012 and edited on November 15, 2017.