Monday, 23 July 2018 00:47

Intel celebrates its 50-year history, shares key milestones and sets record


Intel has enjoyed many incredible achievements over the last 50 years, and while ARM and AMD processors are doing their utmost to disrupt Intel, Chipzilla keeps chipping away, even recently breaking a Guinness World Record.

On 18 July, Intel celebrated its 50th anniversary. It hasn't been all smooth sailing in that time, with various processor bugs from the Pentium era through to the Meltdown, Spectre and other security issues of the very recent past showing how decisions made in the past can have major implications in the present.

That said, Intel has been at the forefront of innovation for decades, and while the last few years before AMD's resurgence arguably saw Intel coasting along a little too frivolously right when it should have truly been putting pedal to the metal to better fend off the ARM threat and out-innovate AMD, neither of which Intel was arguably able to do, Intel is nevertheless still humming along nicely.

Sure, it's chief executive of the past few years had to leave due to alleged dalliances with an employee, albeit many years ago, but that CEO was swiftly replaced with an interim CEO, and the company will find a permanent replacement soon enough.

In the meantime, AMD's stellar efforts with Ryzen, Ryzen Pro and EPYC processors have stung Intel into action, with Intel releasing its Core i9 processor with 6 cores, and no doubt more innovation to come, even as AMD's incredibly fierce competition must have and must surely continue to shake Intel to its very core(s).

So, as we undoubtedly look to a future where Intel is firing on all cylinders and providing the strongest competition it can, and thus the best value possible to its customers, it's a valuable experience to look at Intel's past five decades, where it "evolved from a small memory manufacturer to a leader in the computing revolution".

Indeed, as Intel explains, while its role in the PC industry is well known, "Intel's full history is even more remarkable. Before the PC industry took off, Intel manufactured chips that were eventually used in everything from fuel pumps to airliners. It has pioneered advancements in car engine control and changed the way technology is marketed. It has also made many big financial bets on its ability to continue advancing processor technology".

Here are some videos on Intel's milestones, including a Guinness World Record set with Intel's drone technology. The article, milestones and an infographic continue thereafter, please read on!

You can read more at Intel here on 50 years of innovation at Intel, stories from people at Intel, as well as Intel's 50th anniversary press kit, which contains plenty of links to timelines, milestones, infographics and more.

Meanwhile, here are some milestones Intel has shared of its extraordinary history.

1959–1971: Speeding up chip development

  • Robert Noyce co-invented the integrated circuit in 1959.
  • In 1965, Gordon Moore predicted that the number of components in a microchip would double approximately every year for the next 10 years, at a roughly fixed cost – a prediction later called Moore’s Law. Moore also saw a future for microchips throughout society.
  • By 1968, Noyce and Moore worked at Fairchild Semiconductor, the world’s largest producer of integrated circuits. They had co-founded the company with colleagues.
  • In July 1968, Noyce and Moore established Intel to conduct research and development the way they preferred
  • Intel developed chips quickly by trying multiple technological approaches at the same time and seeing which was the most suitable. Moore called this a ‘Goldilocks’ technology strategy
  • In April 1969, Intel released its first product, the 64-bit 3101 Static Random Access Memory (SRAM) chip. It was twice as fast as other SRAM chips on the market.
  • Also in 1969, Intel released its 1101 SRAM chip. It was the first company to use a Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (MOS) process to mass-produce chips commercially. Intel was also the first to mass-produce chips that used silicon gates rather than metal. 
  • In 1971, Intel introduced Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EPROM). This made it possible to design new chip prototypes in hours rather than days or weeks. EPROM also helped make microprocessors more commercially viable, by making it easier to reprogram them.

1971–1978: Enabling the microprocessor revolution

  • In 1971, Intel released the world’s first microprocessor, the 4-bit 4004. Japanese company Busicom bought the rights to use the chip in its programmable electronic calculators. Intel recognised the microprocessor’s potential and bought back the chip design. 
  • In 1974, Intel released the 8-bit 8080 chip, which was about 10 times faster than the 8008. The chip was used in thousands of devices – including the Altair 8800 personal computer. 
  • In 1976, Intel debuted the MCS-48 family of microcontrollers, which would eventually be found in everything from fuel pumps to airliners and a video game console. 

1978–1995: Betting big on the PC industry

  • Intel released the 8086 processor in 1978. The chip was the first 16-bit processor and the first of other Intel processors based on the same x86 architecture.
  • In 1980, Intel’s Operation Crush marketing campaign shifted the focus of processor marketing from technical specifications to solving customers’ problems. Intel spent more than $2 million on the campaign, which resulted in about 2,500 design wins.
  • Intel’s marketing campaign led to IBM buying Intel’s 8088 processor for the first IBM PC.
  • In 1984, Ford chose Intel’s 8061 microcontroller for the Electronic Engine Control IV unit. This unit was part of a major overhaul of the engine control system in Ford vehicles.
  • The Intel Inside marketing campaign began in 1991. Intel initially spent $250 million on the campaign, which targeted consumers rather than industry insiders.
  • Intel collaborated to develop the Universal Serial Bus (USB) specification, which debuted in 1995. USB provided a standard way to connect peripherals to PCs.

1995–2016: Transforming Computing

  • In 2003, Intel released the Centrino processor. Centrino enabled mobile computing by integrating a mobile processor, related chipsets and 802.11 wireless network functions for better performance and battery life. 
  • In 2007, Intel announced its biggest breakthrough in processor technology in 40 years – processors that used 45 nanometre (nm) transistors. To achieve this, Intel overcame the physical limitation of the silicon dioxide dielectrics the industry had used since the 1960s. 
  • In 2011, Intel announced the availability of the Thunderbolt high-speed PC connection technology. Thunderbolt could transfer a full-length high definition movie in less than 30 seconds.
  • In 2011, Intel announced the Ultrabook laptop specification. It was the first time it had created a new device category specification for PC manufacturers.
  • In 2015, Intel and Micron announced a new non-volatile memory technology called 3D XPoint. It was up to 1,000 times faster than previous non‑volatile memory, benefitting applications that needed fast access to large data sets. 3D XPoint would later become part of Intel’s Optane memory technology for PCs and data centres. 

2016–2018: Evolving From a PC company to a Data Company

  • In 2016, Intel announced it was restructuring its business to speed up its evolution from a PC company to one focussed on powering the cloud and the connected world. Intel’s data centre products would process data from billions of devices, connected by Intel-enabled Internet of Things solutions. Intel’s PC business would remain an important source of technology and revenue. 
  • Intel also announced its first Intel-branded commercial drone, the Intel Falcon 8+, in 2016. The lightweight drone was designed for industrial inspection, surveying and mapping.
  • In 2017, Intel acquired computer vision and machine learning company Mobileye. This would allow Intel to deliver automated driving solutions, from the cloud to cars. 
  • Intel also announced the world’s first global 5G modem, the Intel 5G Modem, in 2017. 
  • In 2018, major server vendors adopted Intel Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) acceleration chips. FPGAs can be reprogrammed on the fly for speech recognition, A.I., analytics and other specialised tasks. 

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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