The 4004 was Intel’s first microprocessor. This breakthrough invention powered the Busicom calculator and paved the way for embedding intelligence in inanimate objects as well as the personal computer.
The birth of the 4004 was an intense moment witnessed by the designer, Federico Faggin alone, working into the night in the deserted Intel labs. He had received the 4004 wafers from the manufacturing line at around 6 PM, in January 1971, as people were leaving for the day. With hands trembling and heart pounding he loaded the wafers in the wafer probe and connected it. A sigh of relief raised from his chest, above the humming of the instruments, as he observed electrical activity in the device. As the testing progressed, the tension was gradually transforming into elation as all the critical functions showed to be operating properly. At around 3 AM, exhausted and ecstatic, Faggin left the lab. At home his wife, Elvia, was waiting for the news. “It works”! he announced, and they shared the happiness in this moment of triumph.