The Intel 4004 Microprocessor and the Silicon Gate Technology
A testimonial from Federico Faggin, designer of the 4004 and developer of its enabling technology
Intel Disowns Faggin
To protect its interests, the company that has hugely benefited from the two major contributions Faggin
gave to the world of technology and from his relentless dedication to work,
tried to destroy his entire legacy. Intel tried to erase his name from the
history of the microprocessor, (and the silicon gate), attributed his credits to
Ted Hoff, did not mention his name to the press, encouraged lesser contributors
to grab a bigger share of credit to take away from him, and boycotted any
recognition to him. Only after many interventions by Faggin and his wife, a
technology writer, did Intel give limited acknowledgment to Faggin's
contributions. In its new museum it presents Ted Hoff as the inventor (click to see picture of museum display) of the
microprocessor, after having agreed that he was a co-inventor in the first
Following is Stan Mazor's quote and Elvia Faggin's answer on the subject of Intel disowning Faggin:
"…….certainly in Federico's case, when he left to found Zylog he got temporarily written outside of the Intel history. So we were not there promoting the fact that he was a great contributor when he was competing with a very good processor, the Z80 from Zylog. But after that blew away, then I think he certainly got his share of the credit as well. I don't think there are any hard feelings."
Stan Mazor, in a June 9, 2000 Silicon Genesis interview with Rob Walker
Federico was erased out of Intel history for the longest time and Hoff and Mazor did not mention his name even knowing that Federico was in charge of the project and the principal designer of the microprocessor. In many accounts and interviews Hoff and Mazor referred only to a "design team" and either actively or implicitly, diminished his contributions and took away credits from him. Because of this obscuring activity, a great amount of confusion about roles and credits still exists to this day.
In this interview Mazor is trying to rationalize and justify why he collaborated with Intel’s management in denying credit to Faggin’s essential contributions to the development of all the early Intel microprocessors. To say: “I don't think there are any hard feelings” when he never bothered to ask us what we felt, is deceitful. Truth is: IT HURT LIKE HELL! and damaged not only Federico but also Elvia, his wife, and their children, especially because it made Faggin look like an impostor and therefore compelled his wife, who had became a technology writer, to take out the fight for the true story to be told. It was only because of her insistence and determination that the lies “blew away” as Mazor puts it.
Shortly before Intel’s Museum opened in 1992, Federico was not even going to be mentioned, if it wasn't for the forceful intervention of Elvia Faggin. Finally, a small picture of Faggin was placed to the side of a giant picture of Hoff, who was previously presented as the sole inventor. The caption on Faggin's picture read: "Federico Faggin (above) joined Intel to turn Hoff's vision into a silicon reality. In less than one year, Faggin and his team delivered the 4004, which was introduced in November, 1971." The caption on Hoff's' picture stated: "A young Intel engineer -- Marcian E. "Ted" Hoff -- recognized that the integrated circuit technology of the day had advanced enough to build a single chip, general purpose computer which could be programmed to run any of Busicom’s calculators. He also realized that such a chip, using different sequences of instructions, could run a calculator, a traffic light, an elevator or a multitude of other things. Hoff’s insight led him to formulate the world’s first microprocessor architecture, the Intel 4004."
The facts are that while a chip of the complexity and the performance of the 4004 had never been designed and built before, Hoff’s idea had already been advanced before by many people. The original Busicom project that inspired the 4004 was already intended to be a three-chips programmable CPU using shift register read-write memory, as it was typical in those days; and computers had already been around for over 20 years. The 4004 was made real thanks to Faggin’s contributions, which included the very manufacturing technology that enabled to design the 4004 (the Silicon Gate Technology). The essence of the microprocessor is the implementation in silicon of a single-chip CPU fast enough, and cost effective enough, to be useful for a variety of applications. The idea had been around for years, what was missing was the ingenuity and hard work necessary to make it real.