Gov. & the machine(s) we love

Brent Hilpert hilpert at
Fri Oct 30 22:31:05 CDT 2015

On 2015-Oct-30, at 7:25 PM, william degnan wrote:
> On Oct 30, 2015 8:50 PM, "Paul Koning" <paulkoning at> wrote:
>>> On Oct 30, 2015, at 1:40 PM, Murray McCullough <
> c.murray.mccullough at> wrote:
>>> What is the role played by the U.S. gov. in helping to create the
>>> microcomputer? What money & expertise did it provide?
>> Interesting question.  Supposedly some of the impetus for integrated
> circuits came from the space program -- but I think the first ones (at TI)
> predate that.  And the first microcomputer, the Intel 4004, was as far as I
> remember built to be the engine of a calculator.
>> So chances are that various government programs helped at the margins,
> but were not drivers.
>>        paul
> I read about the datapoint 3300, how cdc was connected to the 4004.  I also
> read about how the 4004 was inspired by the f14 (?) fighter jet, Can anyone
> confirm these?

Off the top of my head, without going back to check:

- ca. 1970: The well-known story of the 4004 is that Busicom, a Japanese calculator manufacturer,
asked Intel to manufacture a set of ASIC LSI chips, of Busicom's design, for a new calculator.
The task/contract was handed to Intel's Ted Hoff, who looked at the multiple chip designs and conceived
instead of a software (firmware) solution running in a 'computer' processor, rather than doing chip
layouts and masks and production for a whole bunch of chips dedicated to only one application.
Hoff's concept would become MCS-4 family of chips of which the 4004 is the processor.
If I have it right, because the MCS-4 family was developed under the contract to Busicom, Intel had to do
some business wrangling to get the rights back to their MCS-4 design to sell it as a general-purpose processor
independently of Busicom.

- ca. early-70s: The 8008 was conceived for use in a Datapoint computer terminal design.
Read the story in the past, don't recall the details in as much depth.

- ca. late-60s: I don't know about the 4004 being inspired by the F14, perhaps you're thinking of the following:
there was a competing claim against the 4004 for title of "first microprocessor" by (the designers of) a processor
for fly-by-wire(?) of a fighter jet. It was implemented in LSI, but as I recall, it was constituted from several chips
and the delineation of functionality across the chips left the claim of being a single-chip processor,
and hence first microprocessor, rather tenuous.


The 4004 may win the claim of being first (microprocessor), but really it was just an idea whose time had come.
The microprocessor was inevitable as continually increasing integration levels reached the point of it being feasible.

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