Intel's 4004 microprocessor calc code brought back to life
As the flowchart turns
From the sweet as a nut files: we've come across a web site that has recreated the original software that ran on Intel's first commercial microprocessor - the 4004, released in 1971.
The story of the 4004's creation is the stuff of legend, and most semiconductor veterans will know the tale. For those who don't, here's a brief recap.
Japanese firm Busicom knocked on a fledgling Intel's door, asking for help creating a series of chips that could power a new line of calculators. Intel's engineers started cranking away on the project but found that creating lots of specialized chips proved too complex and costly. So, Federico Faggin, Ted Hoff, Stan Mazor and Busicom's Masatoshi Shima teamed to craft a more general purpose chip that could be programmed to handle a variety of jobs such as display and printer control.
With what would become the 4004 in hand, Intel talked Busicom into returning the rights to the design as a swap for refunding some development costs and giving Busicom a price cut on the chips.
This let Intel sell its chip - the first commercial microprocessor - to others.
A number of customers experimented with the 4004 and its follow-on, but it was the third generation 8080 put out in 1975 that really kicked Intel's microprocessor biz into overdrive. That chip made its way into hobby computer kits such as the Altair 8800.
Now you can replicate some of the 4004 magic via a new simulator of the Busicom 141-PF calculator and copy of the code. In addition, you'll find an existing simulator of the actual microprocessor.
There's more on the 4004 at the Intel Museum in Santa Clara. The little museum is located at the front of Intel's headquarters. It's actually quite impressive for a small museum, teaching you a lot about Intel and the chip making process in a few, digestible exhibits. You even find out why the brilliant Noyce almost failed to graduate from college because of a pig. ®
Register editor Ashlee Vance has just pumped out a new book that's a guide to Silicon Valley. The book starts with the electronics pioneers present in the Bay Area in the early 20th century and marches up to today's heavies. Want to know where Gordon Moore eats Chinese food, how unions affected the rise of microprocessors or how Fairchild Semiconductor got its start? This is the book for you - available at Amazon US here or in the UK here.
... was upwards compatible from the Intel 8080, not 8008.
Space exclamation mark
"how soon we forget that whilst Intel 4004 actually failed in the real world of the first manned lunar landing !"
This is nonsense. The Apollo computer was designed at MIT and built by Raytheon, although as we all know it was just an empty box made out of cardboard, with some flashing lights in it. The Intel 4004 was not released until 1971, two years after the "first" (cough) "moon" (cough) "landing" (splutch). In fact there is no moon, it's just a reflection of the sea.
I choose Paris Hilton as my avatar, because she is an illusion too.
The best book about Intel...
...is "Inside Intel", written by Tim Jackson in 1997.
Real hair-raising stuff - and very interesting; it's about as addictive as a good novel.
I think I still have the 4040 (improved 4004) manual somewhere.
Someone gave it to me in '73. Started me off in computing. He was working at a factory in Coventry on the Foleshill Rd. Can't remember the name of the co (?DuPont?) but very early adopters in the UK.
how soon we forget
how soon we forget that whilst Intel 4004 actually failed in the real world of the first manned lunar landing !
Or that the unfortunate Zilog's much faster innovative Z80A , a virtual reverse engineered superior copy of the venerable but very slow i8008(in many ways a virtual doubled up version of the 4004 to increase the unit's word address and memory limitation size) went on to set the standards for much of the future generations of general purpose CPU's , GPU's and RISC chips we now see today , all by using a simple set of additional instructions to manipulate the machines registers !
This innovation forced the Intel Engineers to totally incorporate and reverse engineer much of the rivals hard wired micro code into the ground breaking i8086/88 series on which virtually all the modern pc's can call the real father of today's desktops and mobile note books !
Or how even Intel's main rival AMD forced a whole line of chips to be relegated to the not so bright dumb and stupid idea box as they themselves had to literally re-engineer from scratch yet again !
Life in the industry is full of both circles , ironies and some very dumb but very expensive ideas that never really worked either inside the lab or out in the real world .
Perhaps we should give the award to Zilog and it's Z80A instead ?