Intel celebrates 50th anniversary of world-changing 4004 processor

Intel celebrates 50 years since the Intel 4004, comparing it to the new 12th Gen Core 'Alder Lake': 2300 transistors vs billions.

@anthony256
Published Mon, Nov 15 2021 7:01 PM CST

Can you believe it has been 50 years since Intel released the Intel 4004 processor, the world's first commercially available microprocessor. 50 years from that day, we have Intel's new 12th Gen Core "Alder Lake" CPUs that have just launched.

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The Intel 4004 processor in November 1971 and acted as the "brains" the virtually the foundation of technology as we know it: from your smartphone to your desktop PC, right up into the cloud. Microprocessors opened up the world to what it is today, and without them we'd still be using paper cups and string... well, you get what I mean.

Maybe Pat Gelsinger, Intel CEO will explain it better: "This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 4004 chip. Think of how much we've accomplished in the past half-century. This is a sacred moment for technology. This is what made computing really take off!"

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Federico Faggin, former Intel engineer who designed and produced the Intel 4004 with Tedd Hoff and Stan Mazor explained: "[Looking back at] 1970, it was clear that microprocessors would change the way that we design systems, switching from using hardware to software instead. But the speed with which microprocessors developed over time and were adopted by the industry was really surprising".

The launch of the Intel 4004 processor ushered in the headlines of building a complex integrated circuit into something the size of your fingernail, while also bringing random logic design methodology. This was another important part on the foundation of microprocessors, driving them to where they are now -- being a part of literally everything in our lives, even on -- and in some cases, inside your body.

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Intel comments on what is next, after the Intel 4004: "While the 4004 delivered the modern computing era through the design and production of the first commercially available microprocessor for a desktop calculator, the latest 12th Gen Intel® Core™ processors - which company leaders revealed at the Intel Innovation event in October - will usher in a new era of computing".

"The performance hybrid architecture of this new family represents an architectural shift made possible by close co-engineering of software and hardware and will deliver new levels of leadership performance for generations. And with research in fields like quantum computing, with the cryogenic Intel Horse Ridge II solution, and neuromorphic computing, with the Intel Loihi 2 chip, Intel continues to innovate, explore new territories and push the limits of computing".

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Intel's comments on the 4004's history: "In 1969, Nippon Calculating Machine Corp. approached Intel about designing a set of integrated circuits for its engineering prototype calculator, the Busicom 141-PF. Intel engineer Faggin and his team adapted the original plans for 12 custom chips and designed a set of four chips - including the 4004 CPU - that met the challenge. Ultimately, the 4004, at the size of a human fingernail, delivered the same computing power as the first electronic computer built in 1946, which filled an entire room".

My favorite: the 50-year comparison between the Intel 4004 and the new Intel 12th Gen Core "Alder Lake" CPUs.

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Anthony joined the TweakTown team in 2010 and has since reviewed 100s of graphics cards. Anthony is a long time PC enthusiast with a passion of hate for games built around consoles. FPS gaming since the pre-Quake days, where you were insulted if you used a mouse to aim, he has been addicted to gaming and hardware ever since. Working in IT retail for 10 years gave him great experience with custom-built PCs. His addiction to GPU tech is unwavering.

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