Intel is marking 40 years since the launch of its first microprocessor, which was revealed on 15 November 1971, just over three years after the company was created. The 4004 was originally designed for use in a calculator, reducing the number of chips needed from twelve to four, before being marketed to a wider audience via an advert in Electronic News magazine. The chip was a long way from the world of Core 2 Duos and i7s — a 4-bit processor clocked at 740kHz, with 46 possible instructions — but it introduced the Processor, RAM, and ROM setup that we still use today. Even the production method of the chips seems antiquated now, with individual sheets of film being physically cut and printed before being sandwiched together, in contrast to the computer-controlled production in use today.
Intel now powers the majority of computers shipped today, and says that it sees Moore's law — that transistor density in semiconductors will double every two years — as its driving target rather than a prediction. It seems to be serving them well — in 2010, the company recorded a record $43.6 billion net revenue, with a profit margin of 26.5 percent. However, with Windows 8 shipping with ARM compatibility, we have to wonder whether Intel will maintain its dominance for the next 40 years.