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  • Pranav Nandurkar

Do you know: How was the world's first Microprocessor made?

What is a Microprocessor?

Microprocessor, any of a type of miniature electronic device that contains the arithmetic, logic, and control circuitry necessary to perform the functions of a digital computer’s central processing unit. It consists of transistors, resistors, and diodes that work together. A Microprocessor is an important part of a computer architecture without which you will not be able to perform anything on your computer. It is a programmable device that takes in input perform some arithmetic and logical operations over it and produce the desired output.  Microprocessors help to do everything from controlling elevators to searching the Web. Everything a computer does is described by instructions of computer programs, and microprocessors carry out these instructions many millions of times a second. Microprocessors were invented in the 1970s for use in embedded systems. Some microprocessors are microcontrollers, so small and inexpensive that they are used to control very simple products like flashlights and greeting cards that play music when opened. A few especially powerful microprocessors are used in personal computers.

World's First Microprocessor-

The Intel 4004 was the world’s first commercially microprocessor—a complete general-purpose CPU on a single chip. Released in March 1971, and using cutting-edge silicon-gate technology, the 4004 marked the beginning of Intel’s rise to global dominance in the processor industry. The Intel 4004 is a 4-bit central processing unit (CPU). The chip design, implemented with the MOS(metal–oxide–semiconductor) silicon gate technology, started in April 1970 and was created by Federico Faggin who led the project from beginning to completion in 1971. Marcian Hoff formulated and led the architectural proposal in 1969, and Masatoshi Shima contributed to the architecture and later to the logic design. The first delivery of a fully operational 4004 occurred in March 1971 to Busicom Corp. of Japan for its 141-PF printing calculator engineering prototype. This calculator for which the 4004 was originally designed and built as a custom chip was first commercially available in July 1971. The 4004 was the first random logic circuit integrated with one chip using the MOS  silicon gate technology (SGT). It was the most advanced integrated circuit (IC) design undertaken up until then. The 4004 was the first monolithic processor, fully integrated into one small chip. Such a feat of integration was made possible by the use of the new silicon gate technology for integrated circuits, originally developed by Faggin (with Tom Klein) at Fairchild Semiconductor in 1968, which allowed twice the number of random-logic transistors and an increase in speed by a factor of five compared to the incumbent MOS aluminium gate technology. The first public mention of 4004 was an advertisement in the 15 November 1971 edition of Electronic News. The first delivery was to Busicom for their engineering prototype calculator in March 1971. Packaged in a 16-pin ceramic dual in-line package, the 4004 was the first commercially available computer processor designed and manufactured by chipmaker Intel, which had previously made semiconductor memory chips. The chief designers of the chip were Federico Faggin, the leader of the project after the architectural definition was finalized with Busicom, who created the design methodology and the silicon-based chip design; Ted Hoff who formulated the architecture, both of Intel, and Masatoshi Shima of Busicom who assisted in the development. When asked where he got the ideas for the architecture of the first microprocessor, Hoff related that Plessey, "a British tractor company", had donated a minicomputer to Stanford, and he had "played with it some" while he was there.  The first commercial product to use a microprocessor was the Busicom calculator 141-PF. The 4004 was also used in the first microprocessor-controlled pinball game, a prototype produced by Dave Nutting Associates for Bally in 1974. It is also believed that Pioneer 10, the first spacecraft to leave the solar system, used an Intel 4004 microprocessor. The Intel 4004 was designed by physically cutting sheets of Rubylith into thin strips to lay out the circuits to be printed, a process made obsolete by current computer graphic design capabilities. To test the produced chips, Faggin developed a tester for silicon wafers of MCS-4 family that was itself driven by 4004 chip. It was proof for the management that Intel 4004 microprocessor could be used not only in calculator-like products but also for control applications. Some Specifications : • Instruction set contained 46 instructions (of which 41 were 8 bits wide and 5 were 16 bits wide) • Register set contains 16 registers of 4 bits each • Internal subroutine stack, 3 levels deep. • Up to 92600 instructions per second. • Separate program and data storage. • Able to directly address 32,768 bits of ROM, equivalent to and arranged as 4096 8-bit words • Maximum clock rate is 740 kHz. • Instruction cycle time: minimum 10.8 µs (8 clock cycles/machine cycle)

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