Innovation: The World's first MPU 4004

Busicom Corp.


Intel 4004 - Internal ViewAlongside to the IC, the invention of the "micro-processor" (MPU - Micro Processing Unit) is the greatest invention of the 20th century in the field of electronics. The MPU brought the birth of "personal computers" during the latter half of 1970 and this P.C. has contributed to the vast change in the office and home. Intel was the first MPU producer and has been holding a large share in the world market of this product.

That start was initiated by the commercial negotiation with the industries in Japan. Within 12 months of the company establishment, Intel made their bold plan to reach their commercial production of "DRAM" and, at that time, Intel was very interested in the Semi-conductor for the Electronic Calculators which were being rapidly developed. The reason being was that the development of the above semi-conductors for Electronic Calculators was a product that coincided with Intel's strategy. i.e. mass production of complicated I.C's.

Timely as it was at that time, "Busicom" company gave an order for semi-conductors. The time was 1969 and Busicom was planning to sell high-performance calculators for scientific calculations, etc and gave orders to the newly started Intel to produce 13 different types of semi-conductors. At the time Intel was still procrastinating whether they should go with this production or not. The reason for the procrastination was that Intel had previously only produced three types of product. Just then, Mr. Ted Hoff, who was an ex researcher from Stanford University, joined Intel. When he heard about the orders from Busicom he saw a chance to realise an idea he had had in his mind for some time. According to the instructions from Busicom, respective semi-conductor chips were supposed to be used for each function, computing, keyboard control, printer control respectively. Mr. Hoff's thinking was an integrated circuit (I.C.) which would accommodate multiple instructions on to a single chip.

Mr. Hoff completed his detailed design plan before a revisit by Busicom's executive a couple of months later. Although it was genuinely a first trial for Busicom on hearing Mr. Hoff's news Busicom agreed to his ideas. An agreement was reached to develop the products jointly. At the same time Busicom sent Mr. Masatoshi Shima  ( he is now Vice President of V.M.Technology ) to the Intel Company. This genuinely first agreement was the birth of the world's first CPU (MPU
4004, Micro Processor Unit).

In fact Intel company made a mistake at the time of the birth of the CPU. Busicom valued Mr. Hoff's invention as being a revolutionary one but thought it was a semiconductor device exclusively for an electronic calculator. It was never thought to be for a personal computer.. therefore, at the end of 1969, in exchange of the exclusive sales rights of the 4004 to Busicom, Busicom agreed to share developmental expenses even though the product was a CPU Intel company became a sub-contractor producing it for Busicom.

Two years later from the start of supply of the product, which was in 1971, this problem was solved. After Busicom became involved in the price cutting wars of the calculator manufacturing and marketing business they got into financial difficulties and asked Intel for price reductions. Mr. Hoff had a strong belief that the product (4004) was not just for electronic calculators but had wider applications, he insisted that the aforementioned exclusive sales right should be withdrawn from Busicom. By Busicom requests for a price reduction the contents of the agreement were modified and Intel recovered their sales right for the 4004.

Source: Busicom Corp. - Innovate

Translated from Japanese by courtesy of Mr.Eiji Kawamura and Ray Mackay.

This translation has been made with the authorizacion of Mr. Yoshio Kojima, President of Busicom Corporation.

April, 1998



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