Intel celebrates 40 years since first CPU launch

Written by Paul Goodhead

November 15, 2011 // 11:46 a.m.

Tags: #4004 #amd #anniversary #core-i5 #cpu #intel #intel-4004 #microprocessor

Today is a remarkable day for tech enthusiasts, as it marks the 40th anniversary of the Intel 4004 - the world’s first commercially available microprocessor.

The diminutive processor (die shot below) was the first single-chip CPU, and it possessed a heady maximum clock speed of 740kHz. The 4-bit CPU connected to the motherboard via only 16 pins and was capable of processing between 46,300 and 92,600 instructions per second.

This may sound like a lot but it pales in comparison to modern processors. Intel’s own LGA1155-based processors boast more than 350,000 times the performance of the 4004, for example, and each transistor within them uses roughly 5,000 times less energy than those found in the older chip.

In the same period of time the cost of microprocessor production has dropped dramatically, with the cost of a transistor reducing by a factor of about 50,000, despite a rapid increase in complexity.

These numbers are also only likely to increase, as new production processes enable manufacturers to produce ever more complex processor designs at ever smaller scales. Justin Ratner, Intel Chief Technology Officer is particularly bullish about the future, stating that ‘the sheer number of advances in the next 40 years will equal or surpass all of the innovative activity that has taken place over the last 10,000 years of human history.'

Were you around to see the launch of the Intel 4004? Does it boggle your mind to think how far we’ve come in a relatively small space of time? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

Intel celebrates 40 years since first CPU launch *Intel celebrates 40 years since first processor launchInside the Intel 4004 - click to enlarge

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