Intel is celebrating an absolutely massive milestone today, with the 50th anniversary of the Intel 4004, the world’s very first commercially-available microprocessor.
Today, of course, Intel produces the processors used in most personal computers and is also the world’s leading manufacturer of semiconductors.
Originally launched in 1971, the Intel 4004 was instrumental in the development of modern computing, especially in making it more widely available to the general public. As Intel described in a press release, “Microprocessors enable the convergence of the technology superpowers — ubiquitous computing, pervasive connectivity, cloud-to-edge infrastructure and artificial intelligence — and create a pace of innovation that is moving faster today than ever.”
The Intel 4004 was roughly the size of a fingernail when it was produced, with the same computing power as the very first computer built in 1946. The project was first started in 1969 when the Nippon Calculating Machine Corp. approached Intel about designing chips for its prototype calculator.
Microprocessors, obviously, developed much faster than anyone could have predicted. Federico Faggin, one of the Intel engineers that designed the 4004, goes on to say “[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.”
While looking back on the anniversary of the 4004 is important, Intel is also looking forward to the future, and what’s next. Back in October, the company revealed the latest 12th gen Intel Core Processors, which the company says will “usher in a new era of computing.” Intel’s press release dives into the new processors a little more, saying,
“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 the fields like quantum computing, with the cryogenic Intel Horse Ridge solution, and neuromorphic computing, with the Intel Loihi 2 chip a half-century after the Intel 4004, Intel continues to innovate, explore new territories and push the limits of computing.”
Intel’s 12th gen Core Processors are now available as of November 4th.