"[BUSICOM wasn't] very interested in making any changes, the Japanese engineers were committed to the design they had and they essentially told me to stay out of their way.  But Bob Noyce was encouraging, and so I continued to work on that, and over a relatively short period of time, felt that the way to do it would be to make a very simple, general purpose computer." -- Ted Hoff, Interview  

Invention of the Microprocessor


The integrated chip greatly improved the use for transistors, but it could only do what it was originally programmed to do.  It couldn't change programs, and it certainly couldn't remember anything.  One young scientist at Intel, Ted Hoff, thought he could make something better.  When a Japanese company named BUSICOM asked Intel to make the chips for its new line of calculators, Hoff got his chance. 

Intel had to convince BUSICOM that it was worth their while to invest in a new chip instead of the more basic design their engineers had devised.  Instead of an -- albeit complicated -- circuit, this chip was to be an entire mini-computer unto itself.  Hoff designed the chip, and engineer Frederico Faggin set about building the design into a workable product.  But BUSICOM started to get impatient -- the ideas were risky and development was taking too long.  But Intel knew it had a winner.  They offered to return the entire $40,000 investment to BUSICOM, thus putting the Japanese company at ease, and gaining ownership of the new chip for itself. 

That first chip was called the 4004.  It was 1/8" by 1/16" with 2300 transistors etched into the silicon.  And all by itself it was as powerful as ENIAC, the early (mammoth at 30 tons!) computer built in 1946. 

-- Crystal Fire by Michael Riordan and Lillian Hoddeson  
-- 25th Anniversary of the Microprocessor 
-- Knowledge Context: The Microprocessor 
-- Silicon Genesis: Interview with Ted Hoff 


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