Who Invented the Microprocessor?
The microprocessor is hailed as one of the most significant engineering milestones of all time. The lack of a generally agreed definition of the term has supported many claims to be the inventor of the microprocessor. The original use of the word “microprocessor” described a computer that employed a microprogrammed architecture—a technique first described by Maurice Wilkes in 1951. Viatron Computer Systems used the term microprocessor to describe its compact System 21 machines for small business use in 1968. Its modern usage is an abbreviation of micro-processing unit (MPU), the silicon device in a computer that performs all the essential logical operations of a computing system. Popular media stories call it a “computer-on-a-chip.” This article describes a chronology of early approaches to integrating the primary building blocks of a computer on to fewer and fewer microelectronic chips, culminating in the concept of the microprocessor.