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We now routinely buy personal computers in which microprocessors with millions of transistors perform at gigahertz speeds, so it is easy to forget that the first microprocessor was not a simple or obvious choice to produce. At the time it was being contemplated, metal oxide semiconductor (MOS) technology was still quite new, and integrated circuits themselves had existed less than a decade. While MOS circuits with a thousand transistors were being manufactured, the economics of integrated circuits of that day limited how far the technology could be pushed. The paper discusses how rethinking a customer's specifications led to simplifications that made the first microprocessor possible.
Date of Publication: Winter 2009