In Pictures: Of punchcards, platters, and wooden mice. The PC's origin story

Technology marches relentlessly onward, discarding the old to make way for the new. Today’s heroes quickly becomes yesterday’s news.

Laying the processor path Before the first mainstream PCs could evolve from room-size mainframes and punch-card machines, the proper components needed to be created. Let’s start with the beating heart of the PC: the processor. Intel laid claim to the “first commercially available microprocessor” crown with its 4004 chip, which it introduced in 1971.

Intel’s site does an admirable job of tooting the 4004’s horn, but here is a particularly juicy stat. The first microprocessor had 2300 transistors with circuit features 10,000 nanometers wide. Intel's latest “Haswell” Core processors, meanwhile, pack more than 1.4 billion transistors, with each sporting features measuring just 22nm across

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