Intel headquarters

For nearly 40 years, Intel Corporation has been at the forefront of silicon innovation. Today it is the world leader in developing technologies, products, and initiatives to continually advance how people work and live.

Intel’s early history is legendary. The company was established in 1968 by Robert N. Noyce, cofounder of the integrated circuit, and Gordon E. Moore, a colleague of Noyce’s from Fairchild Semiconductor, to make semiconductor memory more practical and affordable. The pair quickly won the backing of venture capitalist Art Rock, who raised $2.5 million in less than two days. Because the name Moore Noyce was already trademarked by a hotel chain, the two called their startup Intel, short for “integrated electronics.”

Soon after Intel’s founding, a third visionary joined the team: Andrew S. Grove, a Hungarian émigré who had played a critical role in the development of metal oxide semiconductor (MOS) large scale integrated (LSI) technology. Not long after that, top engineers Ted Hoff , Federico Faggin, and Stan Mazor joined the group. In late 1969, when a Japanese calculator manufacturer, Busicom, asked the new company to design 12 custom chips for one of its products, the innovative Intel team came up with a groundbreaking solution: one chip that could do the work of 12.

Nine months later, the Intel 4004 was first produced, a 1/8-inch by 1/6-inch chip that contained 2,300 MOS transistors. This “computer on a chip” was the world’s first microprocessor, with all the power of the 3,000-cubic-foot ENIAC computer.

In 1980, the 4004 was followed by the 8080, which was chosen as the central processing unit of IBM’s first personal computer. In 1985 Intel introduced its next-generation Intel386™ microprocessor, and in 1993 the company’s focus on R&D and manufacturing expertise resulted in the renowned Pentium microprocessor, whose descendants power performance-intensive applications today. Intel’s groundbreaking achievements continue in the new century.

In January 2006, the company announced it had designed what is believed to be the fi rst fully functional SRAM (static random access memory) chip using 45-nanometer (nm) logic technology. Then, just a year later, Intel began to implement an innovative combination of materials that drastically reduced transistor leakage, improving energy efficiency, and significantly increasing performance in its 45nm process technology. Intel now uses a new material based on the element hafnium instead of silicon with a property called “high-k” for its transistor gate dialectric, and a new combination of metals for the transistor gate in portions of the millions of transistors inside a multi-core computer chip, which is about the size of a postage stamp. According to Gordon Moore, the move to hafnium-based high-k and metal gate materials “marks the biggest change in transistor technology since the introduction of polysilicon gate MOS transistors in the late 1960s.”

Intel’s new 45nm processor technology is now in production for more than 15 products in its next generation family of computer chips. With more than 400 million transistors for dual-core processors and more than 800 million for quad-core, these next generation of Intel Core 2 chips provide greater performance, power-management capabilities, higher core speeds, and larger caches for desktop, mobile, workstation, and enterprise computers.

And more milestones are ahead including a 32 nanometer (nm) technology with transistors so small that more than 4 million of them could fit on the period at the end of a sentence on a printed page. “Intel has a long history of translating technology leaps into tangible benefits that people appreciate,” said Bill Holt, vice president and general manager of the Intel Technology and Manufacturing Group. That forward-looking ethic is reflected in Intel’s Leap ahead™ call to action, inspiring continuing commitment to moving silicon technology forward.

This history was written in 2008 by the Silicon Valley Historical Association.

Intel website