This Article 
   
 Share 
   
 Bibliographic References 
   
 Add to: 
 
Digg
Furl
Spurl
Blink
Simpy
Google
Del.icio.us
Y!MyWeb
 
 Search 
   
The Intel 4004 Microprocessor: What Constituted Invention?
July-September 1997 (vol. 19 no. 3)
pp. 4-15

This paper investigates the context for the development of one of the earliest microprocessors, the Intel 4004. It considers the contributions Intel employees, most notably Marcian E. "Ted" Hoff, Jr., and Federico Faggin, made and contributions other people made to this development who are not generally known, most notably Tadashi Sasaki and Masatoshi Shima. The paper represents a case study of how corporate and national cultures affect technological development and of the many aspects of invention, including conceptualization, logical design, engineering, fabrication, capitalization, and marketing.

1. See, for example, D. Clark, "High-Stakes War Over Chip Patents," San Francisco Chronicle, Sept.8 1990, pp. b1-b3; M. Antonof, "Gilbert Who?" Popular Science, Feb. 1991, pp. 70-73; and J. Gemperlein and P. Carey, "If Hyatt Didn't Invent the Microprocessor, Who Did?" San Jose Mercury News, 2 Dec. 1990, p. 27.
2. The standard historical works on the history of semiconductors provided limited information about the history of the semiconductor: E. Braun and S. MacDonald, Revolution in Miniature, 2nd ed. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1982; P.R. Morris, A History of the World Semiconductor Industry. London: Peter Peregrinus, 1990; H. Quiesser, The Conquest of the Microchip. Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard Univ. Press, 1990. Also see Intel's official history, A Revolution in Progress: A History of Intel to Date (Intel, 1984), written by M. Real, Oral History Associates. Useful biographical sketches are given in "The 30th Anniversary of the Integrated Circuit: Thirty Who Made a Difference," Electronic Eng. Times, Sept. 1988, pp. 14-24.
3. See the differing perspectives given by the principal participants: Noyce and Hoff, 1981; F. Faggin, "The Birth of the Microprocessor," Byte, Mar. 1992, pp. 145-150, especially p. 146; M. Shima, The Birth of the Microcomputer: My Recollections. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1987 (in Japanese); Shima, "The Birth and Growth of the Microcomputer," Nikkei Electronics Book, Electronics Innovation, pp. 159-185 (in Japanese); and Shima, "History and Future of the Microprocessor," Johoshori, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 135-141, Feb. 1993. Also see T.S. Perry, "Careers/Profile: Marcian E. Hoff," IEEE Spectrum, pp. 46-49, Feb. 1994.
4. Faggin oral history interview conducted by the author, Sept.1 1994, IEEE archives.
5. M. Hoff oral history interview conducted by the author, Sept.1 1994, IEEE archives.
6. Faggin, 1992, p. 146. Some of the references in the published literature to similar ideas include E.A. Sack, R.C. Lyman, and G.Y. Chang, "Evolution of the Concept of a Computer on a Slice," Proc. IEEE, Dec. 1964, pp. 1,713-1,720; E. Fubini and M. Smith, "Limitations in Solid State Technology," IEEE Spectrum, May 1967, pp. 55-59; Editors, "Integrator on a Chip," Electronics, 22 Aug. 1967, pp. 38, 40.
7. R.N. Noyce and M.E. Hoff, "A History of Microprocessor Development at Intel," IEEE Micro, vol. 1, pp. 8-21, especially p. 8, Feb. 1981.
8. Noyce and Hoff, 1981, p. 8.
9. The information in this section is taken from a resume provided by Sasaki and from an oral history interview conducted by the author in Tokyo on 24 May 1994 (IEEE archives).
10. Sasaki interview.
11. For background on the Japanese industry, see T. Sasaki, "The Role of Government in the Formative Stage of the Japanese Electronics Industry," lecture given in May 1986 at the Electronics Show in Tokyo, printed in Summary of Speech[es] in 1986/1987, Sharp Corporation, especially p. 104; Y. Takahashi, "Progress in the Electronic Components Industry in Japan After World War II," pp. 37-53, W. Aspray, ed., Technological Competitiveness.New York: IEEE Press, 1993.
12. For a history of Intel, see Real, 1984; G. Bylinsky, "How Intel Won Its Bet on Memory Chips," Fortune, pp. 142-147, 184, Nov. 1973.
13. Hoff interview.
14. Noyce and Hoff, 1981, p. 9; Hoff interview.
15. Shima interview.
16. Shima interview.
17. Hoff interview.
18. Noyce and Hoff, 1981, pp. 9-10.
19. Noyce and Hoff, 1981, p. 10.
20. Noyce and Hoff, 1981, p. 10.
21. G. Bylinsky, "Here Comes the Second Computer Revolution," Fortune, vol. 92, no. 5, pp. 134-138, 182, Nov. 1975.
22. Noyceinterview, pp. 38-39.
23. Shima interview.
24. Hoff interview.
25. The best technical review of this microprocessor is given in F. Faggin, M. Shima, M.E. Hoff, Jr., H. Feeney, and S. Mazor, "The MCS-4—an LSI Micro Computer System," IEEE '72 Region Six Conf. Proc., pp. 1-6. The bibliography in their paper lists the major technical presentations.
26. Hoff interview.
27. Shima interview.
28. Shima interview. Faggin, 1992, p. 146, corroborates this story.
29. Hoff interview.
30. Most of this biographical information is taken from Faggin, 1992, and the Faggin interview.
31. Faggin interview.
32. Shima personal communication, Dec.10 1994.
33. Shima personal communication, Dec.10 1994.
34. Real 1984, p. 12.
35. Shima interview.
36. Hoff interview.
37. Faggin interview.
38. Hoff interview.
39. Private discussion with Hoff.
40. Faggin interview. The author has no way of reconciling these two conflicting accounts.
41. Hoff interview.
42. Hoff interview.
43. Noyce and Hoff, 1981, p. 13.
44. Hoff interview.
45. Bylinsky, 1975.
46. Faggin, 1992, p. 148.
47. Real 1984, p. 13.
48. Intel, The MCS-4 Story, film, circa 1974 (Intel archives).
49. Hoff interview. The product literature in the Intel archives gives some indication of the wide applications of the 4004, including fanciful uses such as described in "Microprocessor Computes and Checks Life Cycle Tendencies in Coin-Operated 'Biorhythm' Machine," 20 Oct. 1975, p. 5. Technical publications regularly described how to use the 4004, e.g., R.H. Cushman, "What Can You Do With a Microprocessor?" EDN, pp. 42-47, Mar.20 1974; Cushman, "How to Get Acquainted With aμP", EDN, pp. 46-51, 20 Sept. 1974; B. Cole, "4-Bit Controller System Upgraded," Electronics, pp. 167-168, 14 Nov. 1974; L.J. Mandell, "Pitfalls to Avoid in ApplyingμP's," EDN, pp. 22-26, 20 Jan. 1975.
50. Faggin interview; Sasaki interview.
51. Faggin interview.
52. See the letter to the editor by Faggin's wife, Elvia, in the 3 Oct. 1986 edition of the San Jose Mercury News and Hoff's reply printed in the newspaper nine days later.
53. On the design process for the Z8000, see M. Shima, "Demystifying Microprocessor Design," IEEE Spectrum, July 1979, pp. 22-30. Reprinted as "Design Case History: Z8000 Microprocessor," Design Studies, vol. 2, pp. 97-106, Apr. 1981,.
54. Faggin interview.

Citation:
William Aspray, "The Intel 4004 Microprocessor: What Constituted Invention?," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 4-15, July-Sept. 1997, doi:10.1109/85.601727
Usage of this product signifies your acceptance of the Terms of Use.