mcpublic writes: Today marks the 45th anniversary of the 4004, Intel’s first microprocessor chip, announced to the world in the November 15, 1971 issue of Electronic News. It seems that everyone (except Intel) loves to argue whether it was truly the “first microprocessor.” Ken Sherriff's recent article in IEEE Spectrum tells the more complicated story. But what’s indisputable is that the 4004 was the computer chip that started Intel’s pivot from a tiny semiconductor memory company to the personal computing giant we know today. Federico Faggin, an Italian immigrant who invented the self-aligned, silicon gate MOS transistor and buried contacts technology, joined Intel in 1970. He needed both his inventions to squeeze the 4004's roughly 2,300 transistors into a single 3x4mm silicon die. He later went on to design the Intel 8080 and the Zilog Z80 with Masatoshi Shima, a Japanese engineer with a “steel trap mind,” the once-unsung hero of the 4004 team.
mcpublic writes: Today is the 44th anniversary of the Intel 4004, the pioneering 4-bit microprocessor that powered the first electronic taxi meters. According to the unaffiliated (and newly renamed) Intel 4004 45th Anniversary Project web site, they have just re-created the complete set of VLSI mask artwork for the 4004 using scalable vector graphics, and updated their Busicom 141-PF calculator replica aimed at collectors and hobbyists. Included is some interesting historical perspective: Back in the early 1970s, there was no electrical CAD software, design-rule checkers were people, and VLSI lithographic masks were hand-crafted on giant light tables by unsung "rubylith cutters."
mcpublic writes: "For years the Computer History Museum has been quietly collecting and displaying the computational relics of yesteryear. Now, finally the New York Times Arts Section shines the spotlight on this most nerdy of museums. Speak Steampunk? You can find a working replica of Babbages Difference Engine in the lobby of the Museum's Mountain View, California home. Of course the vast majority of the collection is electronic, and though 'big iron' is king, that hasn't stopped dedicated volunteers from bringing back to life pioneering 'mini' computers like the 1960 PDP-1 and the first video game software ever: Spacewar!"
mcpublic writes: The MOS 6502 microprocessor is famous among the vintage computing and classic gaming crowds. It was used inside the Apple II, the Commodore 64, the Atari 2600, and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Need I say more? In 2010, the chip's 35th anniversary year, reverse engineers came out in droves and published more details about the 6502 than ever before—yes, really! For the assembly language crowd there is Michael Steil's excellent 50 minute talk on the 6502's architecture and instruction set delivered at 27C3, the video posted just yesterday. Or maybe you just want a quick read on 6502 history and some awesome reverse engineering efforts? Check out Russ Cox's blog. But if you are looking for the original 6502 netlist, accurate down to the last undocumented instruction, or want to run an animated 6502 chip simulation in your browser, you'll definitely want to visit Greg James, Barry and Brian Silverman's visual6502.org web site. These pied pipers have attracted an enthusiastic following of like-minded engineers who are now photographing and disecting even more classic chips.
mcpublic writes: When a small team of reverse engineers receives the blessing of a big corporate legal department, it is cause for celebration. For the 38th anniversary of Intel's groundbreaking 4004 microprocessor, the company is allowing us to release new details of their historic MCS-4 chip family announced on November 15, 1971. For the first time, the complete set of schematics and artwork for the 4001 ROM, 4002 RAM, 4003 I/O Expander, and 4004 Microprocessor is available to teachers, students, historians, and other non-commercial users. To their credit, the Intel Corporate Archives gave us access to the original 4004 schematics, along with the 4002, 4003, and 4004 mask proofs, but the rest of the schematics and the elusive 4001 masks were lost until just weeks ago when Lajos Kintli finished reverse-engineering the 4001 ROM from photomicrographs and improving the circuit-extraction software that helped him draw and verify the missing schematics. His interactive software can simulate an ensemble of 400x chips, and even lets you trace a wire or click on a transistor in the chip artwork window and see exactly where it is on the circuit diagram (and vice-versa).