Intel 4004
Intel 4004

In 1971, Intel made a big achievement by releasing the Intel 4004, a 4-bit CPU. This was the first commercially produced microprocessor and it changed how computers were designed and built. Despite having only 2,300 transistors, the Intel 4004 showed the potential of integrated electronics and marked a significant moment in the history of computing. The introduction of the Intel 4004 paved the way for more powerful microprocessors, starting a revolution in digital technology. It was sold for $60 at the time of its release, which is approximately $450 in today’s value. This microprocessor was not only a technical marvel but also changed the way we understand and use computers. Intel’s decision to launch the 4004 came from acquiring rights from Nippon Calculating Machine Corporation for calculator chips. This strategic move showcased Intel’s vision and laid the groundwork for the development of more advanced microprocessors that enable the digital devices we use today.

Image Credit: Al. Struk, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Intel’s Microprocessor Revolution: A Brief History

The Birth of the 4004

In 1971, Intel Corporation released the 4004, the world’s first commercially available microprocessor. This tiny chip, roughly the size of a fingernail, packed the power of a room-sized computer from the 1940s. Originally designed for a Japanese calculator company, the 4004 proved to be a groundbreaking innovation that paved the way for modern computing.

4004 Specifications

Clock Speed740 kHz
Instruction Set46 Instructions
Memory Address Space4 KB
Data Bus Width4-bit

Impact on the World

The Intel 4004’s introduction marked the beginning of a technological revolution. It made computers smaller, cheaper, and more accessible to a wider audience. This led to the development of personal computers, smartphones, and countless other devices that rely on microprocessors.


The Intel 4004 may seem primitive compared to today’s powerful processors, but its legacy lives on. It laid the foundation for the microprocessors that power our modern world. Intel’s pioneering work in this field has made them a leading force in the semiconductor industry, with their processors powering the vast majority of computers worldwide.


The information presented here is a brief overview of the Intel 4004 and its significance. For a more in-depth look, please refer to the resources mentioned earlier.

Key Takeaways

  • Intel introduced the first microprocessor, the 4004, in 1971.
  • The 4004 was a 4-bit CPU and a significant leap in integrated electronics.
  • Intel’s pioneering move shaped the future of modern computing.

The Birth of the Microprocessor

The introduction of the microprocessor was crucial in shaping modern technology. This innovation streamlined computational processes and marked a significant leap forward in electronics.

Early Developments in Microprocessor Technology

The journey towards the microprocessor began with advancements in transistor technology. Transistors replaced vacuum tubes in the 1950s, leading to smaller, more reliable devices. Throughout the 1960s, engineers were able to pack more transistors onto integrated circuits (ICs), significantly increasing computing power.

In 1968, Bob Noyce co-founded Intel, aiming to push forward semiconductor technology. Ted Hoff, an Intel engineer, played a vital role in the development of integrated circuits, envisioning a universal processor that could be programmed for various tasks. His idea laid the groundwork for what would become the microprocessor.

Intel’s Pioneering Innovations

Intel’s breakthrough came in 1971 when it introduced the Intel 4004, the first commercially available microprocessor. This 4-bit CPU was a compact version of the multiple integrated circuits used at the time. The processor was initially created for the Busicom calculator.

Notably, Federico Faggin, an engineer at Intel, was instrumental in transforming Hoff’s idea into a functioning product. His work in silicon gate technology was key in the microprocessor’s success. The Intel 4004 could perform 92,000 operations per second, a feat that set the stage for further innovations.

The 4004 marked the beginning of a new era in electronics and laid the foundation for future advancements in computing technology.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Intel 4004 microprocessor marked a pivotal moment in technology in 1971. This section clarifies key details about its creator, technical specifications, applications, and the evolution of Intel processors.

Who invented the Intel 4004 microprocessor?

The Intel 4004 microprocessor was invented by Federico Faggin, Ted Hoff, and Stan Mazor. They designed it while working at Intel Corporation.

What were the specifications of the Intel 4004 chip?

The Intel 4004 was a 4-bit central processing unit (CPU). It ran at a clock speed of 740 kHz and processed about 60,000 instructions per second. It had 2,300 transistors.

What applications was the Intel 4004 microprocessor used for?

The Intel 4004 was initially designed for calculators. It also found use in other small devices like cash registers and automatic teller machines.

When was the first Intel Core processor introduced?

The first Intel Core processor was introduced in 2006. It marked a significant advancement in Intel’s processor technology.

Can you list the different generations of Intel processors?

Intel processors have evolved through several generations. Some notable ones include the 4004, 8008, 8086, Pentium, Core, Core 2, and various generations of Core i3, i5, and i7 processors.

How has the Intel microprocessor technology advanced since its inception?

Intel microprocessor technology has advanced with faster clock speeds, higher transistor counts, and greater energy efficiency. Modern processors also benefit from improved instructions per cycle (IPC), multi-core designs, and integrated graphics.

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