1997Advanced TechnologyElectronics
Federico Faggin photo

Federico Faggin

  • Italy / December 1, 1941
  • Semiconductor Engineer and Entrepreneur
  • President, Synaptics, Inc.

Development of the World’s First Microprocessor

Together, four engineers (Dr. Faggin, Dr. Hoff, Mr. Mazor and Dr. Shima) developed the world's first microprocessor, the 4004. The four pioneers demonstrated that by integrating a few semiconductor chips, a microcomputer could be created which could perform a wide variety of functions. This paved the way for the development of all microprocessor-controlled industrial equipment and consumer electronics, contributing immeasurably to the creation of new industries, and to the progress of modern society.


Brief Biography

Born in Vicenza, Italy
Doctor in physics, University of Padua, Italy
SGS-Fairchild, Italy
Intel Corp., joined the development project for the 4004 microprocessor
President, Zilog Inc., U.S.A.
President, Cygnet Technologies, Inc.
President, Synaptics, Inc.

Selected Awards and Honors

International Marconi Fellowship Award, England
Gold Medal for Science and Technology, Italy
"25 Years of Industry Achievement, Zilog Z80" with Shima, M. and other, Fall Comdex, U.S.A.
"The 1996 PC Magazine, Awards for Technical Excellence" with Hoff, M. E., Mazor, S. and Shima, M., Fall Comdex, U.S.A.

Major Works


“Standard Parts And Custom Design Merge In Four-Chip Processor Kit” with Hoff, M. E., Electronics


“The MCS-4 An LSI Microcomputer System” with Hoff, M. E., Mazor, S., Shima, M. and other, IEEE


3,821,715 Memory System for Multi-Chip Digital Computer, with Hoff, M. E. and Mazor, S.


“Trends In Microprocessors” IEEE


“Z80: Chip Set Heralds Third Microprocessor” Generation” with Shima, M. and other, Electronics


“How VLSI Impacts Computer Architecture” IEEE Spectrum


“The History of the 4004” with Hoff, M. E., Mazor, S. and Shima, M., IEEE Micro


Development of the World’s First Microprocessor

A group of four engineers, Dr. Federico Faggin, Dr. Marcian Edward Hoff, Jr., Mr. Stanley Mazor, and Dr. Masatoshi Shima, co-developed in 1971 the world’s first general-purpose microprocessor, the 4004, which had a great impact on modern society, bringing about drastic changes in industrial and social structures worldwide.

The 4004 had 2,300 transistors mounted on a single silicon chip, measuring 3mm*4mm. Yet the 4004 could perform functions equivalent to an early computer’s central processing unit (CPU), which was as large as a room.

By combining the 4004 microprocessor with memories to store data and instructions, and I/O registers, a totally new system, the microcomputer, was developed. By changing configurations and programs, microcomputers can comply, at high efficiency, with user demands in a great variety of applications; for instance they can process numeric and text characters and graphics, and control various equipment and systems. Just as the invention of transistors and IC’s radically innovated electronic technologies, the development of the 4004 opened the door to a new age of programmable electronic components, and triggered further technological development. As a result, system construction technologies began to employ organic utilization of hardware and software, which in turn triggered the so-called “Second Industrial Revolution.” A quarter of a century has passed since the debut of the 4004, during which time data width increased from 4 bits to 8 bits, then to 16 bits, 32 bits, and most recently to 64 bits, along with extraordinary improvements in a machine’s computing and processing power. This amazing progress is attributable to the design concept of the first microprocessor, the 4004.

Today, microprocessors are incorporated in various tools and appliances used in our daily lives, including personal computers, consumer electronics products, automobiles, and telecommunication and medical equipment. In addition, microprocessors are widely employed in industrial machinery, especially machine tools. Of all devices invented by humans, nothing has had greater impact in such a short period of time than the microprocessor. The progress of electronics we now enjoy was triggered by the development of the 4004; electronic technology would not have developed as it did, were it not for the achievements of the four engineers: two Americans, one Italian, and one Japanese. For these reasons, The Inamori Foundation is pleased to bestow upon Dr. Federico Faggin, Dr. Marcian Edward Hoff, Jr., Mr. Stanley Mazor, and Dr. Masatoshi Shima the 1997 Kyoto Prizes in Advanced Technology.


Abstract of the Lecture


I grew up in Italy. Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by machines, airplanes in particular. I wanted to become a pilot. By the age of 12, I designed and built my first flying model plane. Creating model planes became a passion that led me to choose a technical education. In 1961, at the age of 19, working for Olivetti, I designed most of a small digital computer, and I led a team of four technicians that successfully built it.

My desire to gain more depth of understanding brought me to study Physics at the University of Padua (Italy), where I received a Coctorate in Physics, summa cum laude, in 1965. A chance work trip to Silicon Valley in 1966 opened up a new world to me, a world I wanted to be a part of The opportunity to permanently settle in Silicon Valley came in 1968. Working for Fairchild Semiconductor in their famous R&D Laboratories in Palo Alto, California, I led the development of the Silicon Gate Technology, a new advanced fabrication method for MOS integrated circuits (IC), that heralded the LSI (large scale integration) era.

I joined Intel in 1970 to lead the design effort of the world’s first microprocessor, the 4004, and over the following five years I led or supervised the design of more than two dozen commercial IC’s including the 8080 microprocessor, the product which greatly stimulated the growth of the emerging microprocessor market.

I caught the entrepreneur bug in 1974 D a typical illness in Silicon Valley D and I co-founded Zilog, a company entirely dedicated to microprocessors. I conceived Zilog’s first product, the Z80 microprocessor, which became a best seller. Introduced in 1976 it is still in high volume production today. Zilog played a vital role the early years of the microprocessor, and as CEO of Zilog, I learned the difficult lessons of running a company in a highly competitive business.

During the following seventeen years I co-founded and was the CEO of two other companies, Cygnet Technologies and Synaptics. At Cygnet, in early 1984, we introduced an intelligent phone that, connected to a personal computer, allowed the PC to become a voice and data workstation. Synaptics, started in 1986, is dedicated to the development and commercialization of human to computer interface products, based on giving the computer the ability to recognize sensory inputs D touch, hearing and sight. In 1995 Synaptics introduced the touchpad, a new type of pointing device that, just like the skin of the computer, senses the position of a finger in a sensing surface. The touchpad has been very successful, and the company has grown rapidly and is quite successful.

Understanding how the brain works has been one of my personal interests since the mid-80s. In particular, I am fascinated by the question of how consciousness can emerge from the operation of a complex machine. To this question I dedicate much of the spare time I have. I believe that our search to learn how to make a machine intelligent will naturally lead us to deepen our understanding of our human nature, learning what are the unique properties that make us human, and what is our role in this wondrous universe. I wouldn’t be surprised if in due time we will discover that we all possess a deep spiritual dimension connecting us to the purpose of the Cosmos.

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The Birth of Microprocessor and Future Possibility

Wednesday, November 12, 1997
Kyoto International Conference Center
Tadahiro Ohmi, Professor, Graduate School of Engineering, Tohoku University (Member of the Prize Screening Committee) Hiroyuki Sakaki, Professor, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo (Chairman of the Prize Screening Committee)


Moderator Hiroyuki Sakaki
Opening Hiroyuki Sakaki
Greetings Toyomi Inamori
Managing Director, the Inamori Foundation
Greetings Yasuharu Suematsu
President, Kochi University of Technology (Chairman of the Kyoto Prize Committee)
Commemorative Lecture I Marcian Edward Hoff, Jr., Laureate
"Conception of Microprocessor Architecture"
Commemorative Lecture II Federico Faggin, Laureate
"Birth of Microprocessor"
Commemorative Lecture III Masatoshi Shima, Laureate
"The Future of Microprocessor"
Commemorative Lecture IV Stanley Mazor, Laureate
"Improvements in IC's and Design Tools"
Moderator Tadahiro Ohmi
Lecture Takao Nishitani
Deputy General Manager, Silicon Systems Labs., NEC Corporation
"Programmable Processors in Multi-Media Era"
Lecture Takashi Nanya
Professor, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo
"Developing Asynchronous Microprocessors
Lecture Yukihiro Nakamura
Professor, Graduate School of Engineering, Kyoto University
"High-Level Synthesis Design for VLSI Processors"
Lecture Kunihiro Asada
Professor, VLSI design and Education Center, the University of Tokyo
"Education of VLSI Design in Japanese Universities"
Lecture Michitaka Kameyama
Professor, Graduate School of Engineering, Tohoku University
"Toward New Paradigms for Intelligent Integrated Systems"
Closing Tadahiro Ohmi