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Issue No.04 - Oct.-Dec. (2013 vol.35)
pp: 48-54
ABSTRACT
The Intel 4004 μ-Computer is the earliest known microprocessor-based hardware distributed by Intel. This article relates the information concerning the 4004 μ-Computer in an effort to gain a more complete historical perspective on the liminal period in the corporate history of Intel when, soon after the introduction of its first microprocessor, the company was wrestling with the "one-chip CPU--computer or component?" dilemma and tried to position itself in the emerging microcomputing market that it helped to create.
INDEX TERMS
History, Microcomputers, Microprocessors,development system, History, Microcomputers, Microprocessors, microcomputer, history of computing, Intel, microprocessor
CITATION
Zbigniew Stachniak, "This Is Not a Computer: Negotiating the Microprocessor", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol.35, no. 4, pp. 48-54, Oct.-Dec. 2013, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2013.15
REFERENCES
1. “Announcing a new era of integrated electronics. A microprogrammable computer on a chip!” advertisement in Electronic News,15 Nov. 1971, pp. 12-13.
2. See “the alternative,” promotional document, Intel, 1971. In his 1972 paper, “The One-Chip CPU—Computer or Component?” Marcian E. HoffJr., Intel's manager of the Applications Research Group, described some of the advantages of the new approach to logic design in the following way. “[B]ecause so much of the machine's functional characteristics are determined by read-only-memory, the designer may find it quite convenient to change the machine's characteristics at a later phase in the design or even after the machine has been delivered to the field. Unlike conventional logic systems where field changes often necessitate scrapping of printed circuit boards and extensive rewiring, field changes for the MCS-4 system most often consist of merely replacing or adding read-only-memory units to the system.” M.E. HoffJr., “The One-Chip CPU—Computer or Component?” Proc. Technical Program, Computer Systems Design West Conf. (WESCON), 1972, pp.116-123.
3. For further discussion, see R.K. Bassett, To the Digital Age: Research Labs, Start-up Companies, and the Rise of MOS Technology, John Hopkins Univ. Press, 2002, chap. 8.
4. In “The One-Chip CPU—Computer or Component?” Hoff identified microcomputer components with single-chip CPU-based modules embedded in larger computer systems and left the question posed in his paper's title unanswered.
5. Copies of KSI's order, Intel's purchase invoice signed by Smith, and Amerford Air Cargo shipment documents are in the possession of York University Computer Museum, Toronto. KSI was renamed Micro Computer Machines in late 1972.
6. The development of the MCM/70 computer is described in Z. Stachniak, The Making of the PC: The MCM/70 Story, McGill-Queen's Univ. Press, 2011. See also Z. Stachniak, “The Making of the MCM/70 Microcomputer,” IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 25 no. 2, 2003, pp. 62-75.
7. To the best of my knowledge, the Intel 4004 μ-Computer has never been mentioned in the technical or scientific literature. In 2010, the 4004 μ-Computer originally acquired by KSI was donated to the York University Computer Museum by a former KSI engineer who salvaged the board from being thrashed when KSI started its experimentation with Intel's 8008-based simulation board—the SIM8-01. See Stachniak, “Intel SIM8-01: A Proto-PC,” IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 29, no. 1, 2007, pp.34-48; and Stachniak, “The Making of the PC: The MCM/70 Story.”
8. See F. Faggin etal., “The History of the 4004,” IEEE Micro, vol. 16, no. 6, 1996, pp. 10-20, and “Interview with Marcian (Ted) Hoff,” Los Altos Hills, California, 3 Mar. 1995, “Stanford and the Silicon Valley Oral Interviews.” See also “Computer History Museum Oral History Panel on the Development and Production of the Intel 8008 Microprocessor,” F. Faggin, H. Feeney, E. Gelbach, T. Hoff, S. Mazor, H. Smith (participants), D. House (moderator)21 Sept. 2006., Computer History Museum reference no. X3706.2007.
9. M.E. Hoff interviews with Z. Stachniak, Sept. 2002 – June 2003. For early development of the SIM4-01, see Stachniak, “Intel SIM8-01: A Proto-PC.”
10. See MCS-4 Micro Computer Set Users Manual, rev. 2, Intel, Mar. 1972, p. 60.
11. See Stachniak, “Intel SIM8-01: A Proto-PC.”
12. See Electronics,24 May 1973, p. 130.
13. MCS-4 marketing problems are discussed in Faggin etal., “The History of the 4004,” and in the “Computer History Museum Oral History Panel on the Development and Production of the Intel 8008 Microprocessor.”
14. See “the alternative,” promotional document, Intel, 1971.
15. See, for instance, Intel's “Announcing a new era of integrated electronics. A microprogrammable computer on a chip!” advertisement in Electronic News,15 Nov. 1971. This announcement was also distributed during the 1971 FJCC.
16. See “the alternative,” promotional document, Intel, 1971. Other examples of terms used by Intel in relation to the MCS-4 include “microprogrammed 4-bit computer,” “microprogrammable computer set,” “Intel 4004 microcomputer,” and even the opaque “single-chip computer family” used, for instance, in the MCS-4 Micro Computer Set Users Manual, rev. 4, Feb. 1973, p. 48.
17. See M.V. Wilkes, “The Best Way to Design an Automatic Calculating Machine,” Proc. Manchester Univ. Computer Inaugural Conf., Univ. of Manchester, 1951, pp. 16-21, and M.V. Wilkes, and J.B. Stringer, “Microprogramming and the Design of the Control Circuits in an Electronic Digital Computer,” Proc. Cambridge Philosophical Soc., part 2, vol. 49, 1953, pp. 230-238.
18. See W. Roberts, “Microprogramming Concepts and Advantages as Applied to Small Digital Computers,” Computer Design, Nov. 1969, pp.147-150, and M.V. Wilkes, “The Growth of Interest in Microprogramming: A Literature Survey,” Computer Surveys, vol. 1, no. 3, 1969, pp. 139-145. For more information on early microprogramming architectures, see A.K. Agrawala, and T.G. Rauscher, Foundations of Microprogramming: Architectures, Software, and Applications, Academic Press, 1976.
19. See “Interview with Marcian (Ted) Hoff,” Los Altos Hills, California, 3 Mar. 1995, “Stanford and the Silicon Valley Oral Interviews.”
20. Intel started referring to the 4004 instructions as “microinstructions” from the beginning of the Busicom calculator chip-set project. By analogy to microprogramming, the calculator instructions (or operations) were to be implemented as programs written in terms of these microinstructions and stored in ROM chips (such terminology is used, for instance, in the 1969 correspondence between Intel and Busicom). In the context of a general-purpose CPU, this analogy with microprogrammability does not fully apply. Eventually, Intel designed microprogrammable microprocessors such as the Intel 8080 introduced in 1974.
21. See Wilkes, “The Growth of Interest in Microprogramming.”
22. See the MCS-4 Assembly Language Programming Manual, preliminary edition, Intel, Dec. 1973, p. 1-1.
23. See Faggin etal., “The MCS-4—An LSI Micro Computer System,” IEEE Region Six Conf., 1972, as well as the MCS-4 Micro Computer Set Users Manual, rev. 2.
24. “Computer History Museum Oral History Panel on the Development and Production of the Intel 8008 Microprocessor,” p. 18. Recollecting the meeting, Gelbach mentioned the “standard blue boxes,” most likely the Intel Intellec development systems, rather than the MCS-4 interface boards. However, the Intellecs were announced almost two years later (fall 1973). On the other hand, one of the MCS-4 interface boards was used by Intel as a demonstrator during the 1971 FJCC; see “Intel SIM8-01: A Proto-PC.”
25. Other accounts of Moore's disapproval of Intel's possible entry into the computer manufacturing business are reported in L. Berlin, The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley, Oxford Univ. Press, 2005, p. 227, and in Bassett, To the Digital Age: Research Labs, Start-up Companies, and the Rise of MOS Technology, pp. 274-275.
26. In 2010, Hoff examined an image of the board and expressed a similar opinion. “I did a more careful exam of the image [of the 4004 μ-Computer] you sent, and could read the board code to the left and above the Eproms. It is PC-114. That would indicate that your board is an earlier version of the SIM4-01, which had the designation PC-114-B. I do not know how many of those earlier versions were made, but your version is probably quite rare.” Personal correspondence with Hoff, Dec. 2009.
27. A copy of Kutt's order for a SIM4-01, now at York University Computer Museum, bears the date 27 Dec. 1971.
28. Hoff, interviews with Z. Stachniak, Sept. 2002 – June 2003.
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