Page 4 of 4
The microprocessor goes forth
The MCS-4 could only be sold to Busicom who had paid for most of the development. A little later on a slump in the calculator market forced Busicom to ask Intel to lower the price of the MCS-4. Intel agreed but only if they could sell the chip set for non-calculator applications - they agreed.
Intel’s marketing department weren’t so sure that this was a good thing. The sales of minicomputers were so low that volume production of the MCS-4 looked unlikely. Of course, as we know to day, the sales of minicomputers had no bearing on the potential sales of microcomputers, but the MCS-4 was seen as a minicomputer replacement.
The problem was solved by Arthur Rock who simply recognised a good thing when he saw it and told the board of directors so. The MCS-4 was announced at the end of 1971 and they sold a modest $85,000 worth of them by the start of 1972.
Even with the 4004 Intel thought it had a big computer to sell!
While Intel was working on the MCS-4 another project was going in the direction of a microprocessor implementation. CTC wanted a chip set for a VDU and, because this had to work with characters, the processor that Ted Hoff decided to design had to be an 8-bit processor. CTC, however had other ideas. They took their plans to Texas Instruments who designed an 8-bit processor for them. It was never used because CTC decided to implement their design using TTL logic chips by the bucket load.
Although the CTC project came to a sudden end, Hal Feeney continued with the design assisted by Stan Mazor and Ted Hoff.
The first 8-bit processor, the 8008
The 8008, as it was designated, was introduced in 1972 as the first general purpose 8-bit microprocessor. It supported 45 instructions, a 30us execution time, six general purpose registers, an address space of 16Kbytes and it was packaged in an 18-pin DIP. If you put it together with around 20 other chips you had a machine that was recognisable as a computer.
The 8008 started the microprocessor revolution and led directly to the 8080 and eventually the 80486, the Pentium and beyond. Intel had its second big hit and sales reach $66 million by 1978. Noyce was worth $18.5 million and the company’s stock value had tripled.
Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore and Andy Grove with the 8080 design
Silicon Valley’s first giant was established and there were more to come.
To be informed about new articles on I Programmer, subscribe to the RSS feed, follow us on Google+, Twitter or Facebook or sign up for our weekly newsletter.