Today marks the 40th anniversary of the first commercially available microprocessor, the Intel 4004, which kickstarted the digital revolution.
Microprocessors are the “brains” inside computers, servers, phones, cars, cameras, refrigerators, radios, TVs and many other everyday devices.
The proliferation of microprocessors is due in large part to Intel’s relentless pursuit of Moore’s Law, a forecast for the pace of silicon technology development that states that roughly every 2 years transistor density of semiconductors will double, while increasing functionality and performance and decreasing costs. It has become the basic business model for the semiconductor industry for more than 40 years.
For example, compared to the Intel 4004, today’s second-generation Intel Core processors are more than 350,000 times the performance and each transistor uses about 5,000 times less energy. In this same time period, the price of a transistor has dropped by a factor of about 50,000.
The future of microprocessors
Future microprocessors developed on Intel’s next-generation 22nm manufacturing process are due in systems starting next year and will deliver even more energy-efficient performance as a result of the company’s breakthrough 3-D Tri-Gate transistors that make use of a new transistor structure. These novel transistors usher in the next era of Moore’s Law and make possible a new generation of innovations across a broad spectrum of devices.
While looking back to see how much things have changed since the microprocessor’s introduction, it’s astounding to think about the future and how this digital revolution will continue at a rapid pace as microprocessor technology continues to evolve.
“The sheer number of advances in the next 40 years will equal or surpass all of the innovative activity that has taken place over the last 10,000 years of human history,” said Justin Rattner, Intel chief technology officer.