Federico Faggin

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Federico Faggin
Federico Faggin (cropped).jpg
Faggin in September 2011.
Born (1941-12-01) 1 December 1941 (age 77)
CitizenshipItalian, American
Alma mater University of Padua (Laurea in Physics, 1965)
Known for MOS silicon-gate technology
Intel 4004
Intel 8080
Zilog Z80
Synaptics Touchpad
Childrendaughter (1970) and two sons (1979, 1980) [1]
Awards Marconi Prize (1988)
W. Wallace McDowell Award (1994)
Kyoto Prize (1997)
National Medal of Technology and Innovation (2009)
Computer History Museum Fellow (2009)
Enrico Fermi Prize by IFS (2014)
Scientific career
FieldsPhysics, Electrical engineering
InstitutionsSGS Fairchild
Fairchild Semiconductor

Federico Faggin (born 1 December 1941) is an Italian-American physicist, engineer, inventor and entrepreneur. He is best known for designing the first commercial microprocessor, the Intel 4004. He led the 4004 (MCS-4) project and the design group during the first five years of Intel's microprocessor effort. Faggin also created, while working at Fairchild Semiconductor in 1968, the self-aligned MOS (metal-oxide-semiconductor) silicon-gate technology (SGT), which made possible MOS semiconductor memory chips, CCD image sensors, and the microprocessor. After the 4004, he led development of the Intel 8008 and 8080, using his SGT methodology for random logic chip design, which was essential to the creation of early Intel microprocessors. He was co-founder (with Ralph Ungermann) and CEO of Zilog, the first company solely dedicated to microprocessors, and led the development of the Zilog Z80 and Z8 processors. [2] He was later the co-founder and CEO of Cygnet Technologies, and then Synaptics.

Microprocessor Computer processor contained on an integrated-circuit chip

A microprocessor is a computer processor that incorporates the functions of a central processing unit on a single integrated circuit (IC), or at most a few integrated circuits. The microprocessor is a multipurpose, clock driven, register based, digital IC that accepts binary data as input, processes it according to instructions stored in its memory and provides results as output. Microprocessors contain both combinational logic and sequential digital logic. Microprocessors operate on numbers and symbols represented in the binary number system.

Intel 4004 4-bit central processing unit

The Intel 4004 is a 4-bit central processing unit (CPU) released by Intel Corporation in 1971. It was the first commercially available microprocessor, and the first in a long line of Intel CPUs. The chip design, implemented with the MOS silicon gate technology, started in April 1970, and was created by Federico Faggin who led the project from beginning to completion in 1971. Marcian Hoff formulated and led the architectural proposal in 1969, and Masatoshi Shima participated to the architecture and later to the logic design. The first commercial sale of the fully operational 4004 occurred in March 1971 to Busicom Corp. of Japan for its 141-PF electronic calculator, for which it was originally designed and built as a custom chip.

Fairchild Semiconductor company

Fairchild Semiconductor International, Inc. was an American semiconductor company based in San Jose, California. Founded in 1957 as a division of Fairchild Camera and Instrument, it became a pioneer in the manufacturing of transistors and of integrated circuits. Schlumberger bought the firm in 1979 and sold it to National Semiconductor in 1987; Fairchild was spun off as an independent company again in 1997. In September 2016, Fairchild was acquired by ON Semiconductor.


In 2010, he received the 2009 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor the United States confers for achievements related to technological progress. [3] In 2011, Faggin founded the Federico and Elvia Faggin Foundation to support the scientific study of consciousness at US universities and research institutes. In 2015, the Faggin Foundation helped to establish a $1 million endowment for the Faggin Family Presidential Chair in the Physics of Information at UC Santa Cruz to promote the study of "fundamental questions at the interface of physics and related fields including mathematics, complex systems, biophysics, and cognitive science, with the unifying theme of information in physics." [4] Federico Faggin has been a Silicon Valley resident since 1968 and is a naturalized US citizen.

National Medal of Technology and Innovation award

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is an honor granted by the President of the United States to American inventors and innovators who have made significant contributions to the development of new and important technology. The award may be granted to a specific person, to a group of people or to an entire organization or corporation. It is the highest honor the United States can confer to a US citizen for achievements related to technological progress.

University of California, Santa Cruz public University of California campus in Santa Cruz

The University of California, Santa Cruz is a public research university in Santa Cruz, California. It is one of 10 campuses in the University of California system. Located 75 miles (120 km) south of San Francisco at the edge of the coastal community of Santa Cruz, the campus lies on 2,001 acres (810 ha) of rolling, forested hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay.

Silicon Valley Region in California, United States

Silicon Valley is a region in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California that serves as a global center for high technology, innovation, and social media. It corresponds roughly to the geographical Santa Clara Valley, although its boundaries have increased in recent decades. San Jose is the Valley's largest city, the third-largest in California, and the tenth-largest in the United States. Other major Silicon Valley cities include Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Redwood City, Cupertino, Santa Clara, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale. The San Jose Metropolitan Area has the third-highest GDP per capita in the world, according to the Brookings Institution.

Education and early career

Born in Vicenza, Faggin received a laurea degree in physics, summa cum laude , at the University of Padua, Italy. [5] Federico grew up in an intellectual environment. His father, Giuseppe Faggin, [6] was a scholar who wrote many academic books and translated, with commentaries, the Enneads of Plotinus from the original Greek into modern Italian. Federico manifested, from an early age, a strong interest in technology and decided to attend a technical high school in Vicenza: I.T.I.S (Istituto Tecnico Industriale Statale) Alessandro Rossi, rather than follow the family tradition of classical studies.

Vicenza Comune in Veneto, Italy

Vicenza is a city in northeastern Italy. It is in the Veneto region at the northern base of the Monte Berico, where it straddles the Bacchiglione River. Vicenza is approximately 60 kilometres (37 mi) west of Venice and 200 kilometres (120 mi) east of Milan.

In Italy, the Iaurea is the main post-secondary academic degree. The name originally referred literally to the laurel wreath, since ancient times a sign of honor and now often worn by Italian students right after their official graduation ceremony and sometimes during the graduation party. A graduate is known as a laureato, literally "crowned with laurel."

Physics Study of the fundamental properties of matter and energy

Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its motion and behavior through space and time, and that studies the related entities of energy and force. Physics is one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, and its main goal is to understand how the universe behaves.

Olivetti R&D Labs

At age 19, after his graduation from I.T.I.S. Alessandro Rossi, a technical high school in Vicenza, Federico Faggin took a job at Olivetti, in Italy, where he co-designed and led the implementation of a small digital transistor computer with 4 K × 12 bit of magnetic memory (1960). [7] The Olivetti R&D was the environment where, a few years later, the Olivetti Programma 101, the world's first programmable desktop electronic calculator, became a reality (1964). After this first work experience, Faggin studied physics at the University of Padua and taught the electronics laboratory course for 3rd year physics students in the academic year 1965-1966.

Olivetti company

Olivetti S.p.A. is an Italian manufacturer of typewriters, computers, tablets, smartphones, printers and other such business products as calculators and fax machines. Headquartered in Ivrea, in the Metropolitan City of Turin, the company has been part of the Telecom Italia Group since 2003. The first commercial programmable "desktop computer", the Programma 101, was produced by Olivetti in 1964 and was a commercial success.

Programma 101 1965 programmable calculator manufactured in Italy

The Olivetti Programma 101, also known as Perottina or P101, is the first commercial programmable "desktop computer". Produced by Italian manufacturer Olivetti, based in Ivrea, Piedmont, and invented by the Italian engineer Pier Giorgio Perotto, the P101 has the main features of large computers of that period. It was launched at the 1964 New York World's Fair; volume production started in 1965. A futuristic design for its time, the Programma 101 was priced at $3,200 (equivalent to $25,400 in 2018). About 44,000 units were sold, primarily in the US.


In 1967 he worked at SGS Fairchild, now STMicroelectronics, in Italy, where he developed SGS's first MOS metal-gate process technology and designed its first two commercial MOS integrated circuits. SGS sent him to California in February 1968 and when Fairchild sold its interests in SGS-Fairchild, Faggin accepted a job offer from Fairchild to complete the development of the silicon-gate technology.

STMicroelectronics French-Italian multinational electronics and semiconductor manufacturer headquartered in Schiphol, Amsterdam (Netherlands)

STMicroelectronics is a French-Italian multinational electronics and semiconductor manufacturer headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It is commonly called ST, and it is Europe's largest semiconductor chip maker based on revenue. While STMicroelectronics corporate headquarters and the headquarters for EMEA region are based in Geneva, the holding company, STMicroelectronics N.V. is registered in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

MOSFET Transistor used for amplifying or switching electronic signals

The metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor, also known as the metal–oxide–silicon transistor, is a type of field-effect transistor that is fabricated by the controlled oxidation of a semiconductor, typically silicon. It has an insulated gate, whose voltage determines the conductivity of the device. This ability to change conductivity with the amount of applied voltage can be used for amplifying or switching electronic signals. The MOSFET is the basic element in most modern electronic equipment. Since its invention by Mohamed Atalla and Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs in November 1959, the MOSFET has become the most widely manufactured device in history, with an estimated total of 13 sextillion MOS transistors manufactured as of 2018.

Silicon Valley career

Fairchild Semiconductor

The silicon-gate technology (SGT) is one of the most influential technologies to have fueled the progress of microelectronics since the MOSFET (metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor, or MOS transistor). Without the SGT, the first microprocessor could not have been made during 1970-1971. Prior to the development of SGT technology, the original MOSFET invented by Mohamed Atalla and Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs, in 1959, used silicon as channel material and a non-self-aligned aluminium (Al) gate. [8]

Microelectronics is a subfield of electronics. As the name suggests, microelectronics relates to the study and manufacture of very small electronic designs and components. Usually, but not always, this means micrometre-scale or smaller. These devices are typically made from semiconductor materials. Many components of normal electronic design are available in a microelectronic equivalent. These include transistors, capacitors, inductors, resistors, diodes and (naturally) insulators and conductors can all be found in microelectronic devices. Unique wiring techniques such as wire bonding are also often used in microelectronics because of the unusually small size of the components, leads and pads. This technique requires specialized equipment and is expensive.

Mohamed Atalla mechanical engineer

Mohamed Atalla, also known by the alias Martin "John" M. Atalla, was an Egyptian-American engineer, inventor and entrepreneur in the fields of semiconductor technology and data security. He was a semiconductor pioneer, whose work laid the foundations for modern electronics. His most important invention is the MOSFET, also known as the MOS transistor, which he invented with Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs in 1959, along with the PMOS and NMOS processes for MOSFET semiconductor device fabrication in 1960. The MOSFET is the basic element in most modern electronic equipment, and the most widely manufactured device in history. It has been fundamental to the Digital Revolution and the Information Age, with the US Patent and Trademark Office calling it a "groundbreaking invention that transformed life and culture around the world".

Dawon Kahng South Korean engineer

Dawon Kahng was a Korean-American electrical engineer and inventor, known for his work in solid-state electronics. He is best known for inventing the MOSFET, also known as the MOS transistor, with Mohamed Atalla in 1959. Atalla and Kahng developed both the PMOS and NMOS processes for MOSFET semiconductor device fabrication. The MOSFET is the most widely used type of transistor, and the basic element in most modern electronic equipment.

In February 1968, Federico Faggin joined Fairchild Semiconductor in Palo Alto where he was the project leader of the MOS silicon-gate technology, a MOSFET with a silicon self-aligned gate, and the inventor of its unique process architecture. [9] [10] [11] [12] The SGT became the basis of all modern NMOS and CMOS integrated circuits. It made possible the creation of MOS semiconductor memory chips during 1969–1970, the first microprocessor during 1970–1971, and the first CCD and EPROM (electrically programmable read-only memory) with floating silicon gates (1970-1971). The SGT replaced the incumbent aluminum-gate MOS technology, and was adopted worldwide within 10 years, eventually making obsolete the original integrated circuits built with bipolar transistors.

Fairchild 3708

At Fairchild, Faggin designed the first commercial integrated circuit using Silicon Gate Technology with self-aligned MOSFET transistors: the Fairchild 3708. [13] The 3708 was an 8-bit analog multiplexer with decoding logic, replacing the equivalent Fairchild 3705 that used metal-gate technology. The 3708 [7] was 5 times faster, had 100 times less junction leakage and was much more reliable than the 3705, demonstrating the superiority of SGT over metal-gate MOS. See also: Faggin, F., Klein T. (1969). "A Faster Generation of MOS Devices With Low Threshold Is Riding The Crest of the New Wave, Silicon-Gate IC's." Electronics, 29 Sept. 1969. [13]


Faggin at the Computer History Museum's 2009 Fellows Award event Federico Faggin.jpg
Faggin at the Computer History Museum's 2009 Fellows Award event

The Intel 4004. Federico Faggin joined Intel from Fairchild In 1970 as the project leader and designer of the MCS-4 family, which included the 4004, the world's first single-chip microprocessor. [14] Fairchild was not taking advantage of the SGT and Faggin was burning with the desire of using his new technology to design advanced chips.

The 4004 (1971) was made possible by the advanced capabilities of the silicon gate technology (SGT) being enhanced through the novel random logic chip design methodology that Faggin created at Intel. It was this new methodology, together with his several design innovations, that allowed him to fit the microprocessor in one small chip. [15] [16] A single-chip microprocessor — an idea that was expected to occur many years in the future — became possible in 1971 by using SGT with two additional innovations: (1) "buried contacts" that doubled the circuit density, and (2) the use of bootstrap loads with 2-phase clocks—previously considered impossible with SGT— that improved the speed 5 times, while reducing the chip area by half compared with metal-gate MOS.

The design methodology created by Faggin [16] was utilized for the implementation of all Intel's early microprocessors and later also for Zilog's Z80. [17]

The Intel 4004 — a 4-bit CPU (central processing unit) on a single chip — was a member of a family of 4 custom chips designed for Busicom, a Japanese calculator manufacturer. The other members of the family (constituting the MCS-4 family) were: the 4001, a 2k-bit metal-mask programmable ROM with programmable input-output lines; the 4002, a 320-bit dynamic RAM with a 4-bit output port; and the 4003, a 10-bit serial input and serial/parallel output, static shift register to use as an I/O expander. Faggin promoted the idea of broadly marketing the MCS-4 to customers other than Busicom by showing to Intel management how customers could design a control systems using the 4004. He designed and built a 4004 tester using the 4004 as the controller of the tester, thus convincing Bob Noyce to renegotiate the exclusivity clause with Busicom that didn't allow Intel to sell 4004's to other customers.

In 2009, the four contributors to the 4004 were inducted as Fellows of the Computer History Museum. Ted Hoff, head of Application Research Department, formulated the architectural proposal and the instruction set with assistance from Stan Mazor and working in conjunction with Busicom's Masatoshi Shima. However none of them was a chip designer and none was familiar with the new Silicon Gate Technology (SGT). The silicon design was the essential missing ingredient to making a microprocessor since everything else was already known. Federico Faggin led the project in a different department without Hoff's and Mazor's involvement. Faggin had invented the original SGT at Fairchild Semiconductor in 1968 and provided additional refinements and inventions to make possible the implementation of the 4004 in a single chip. With routine help from Shima, Faggin completed the chip design in January 1971.

The Intel 2102A is a redesign of the Intel 2102 static RAM, where Federico Faggin introduced to Intel, for the first time, the depletion load, combining the silicon gate technology with ionic implantation. The design was done toward the end of 1973 by Federico Faggin and Dick Pashley. The 2102A was 5 times faster than the 2102, opening a new direction for Intel." [18]

Early Intel microprocessors

Faggin's silicon design methodology was used for implementing all Intel's early microprocessors. [19]

The Intel 8008 was the world's first single-chip 8-bit CPU and, like the 4004, was built with p-channel SGT. The 8008 development was originally assigned to Hal Feeney in March 1970 but was suspended until the 4004 was completed. It was resumed in January 1971 under Faggin's direction utilizing the basic circuits and methodology he had developed for the 4004, with Hal Feeney doing the chip design. The CPU architecture of the 8008 was originally created by CTC, Inc., to power the Datapoint 2200 intelligent terminal.

The Intel 4040 microprocessor (1974) was a much improved, machine-code-compatible version of the 4004 CPU allowing it to interface directly with standard memories and I/O devices. Federico Faggin created the 4040s architecture and supervised Tom Innes who did the design work.

The 8080 microprocessor (1974) was the first high-performance 8-bit microprocessor in the market, using the faster n-channel SGT. The 8080 was conceived and designed by Faggin, and designed by Masatoshi Shima under Faggin's supervision. [20] The 8080 was a major improvement over the 8008 architecture, yet it retained software compatibility with it. It was much faster and easier to interface to external memory and I/O devices than the 8008. The high performance and low cost of the 8080 let developers use microprocessors for many new applications, including the forerunners of the personal computer. [21] [22]

When Faggin left Intel at the end of 1974 to found Zilog with Ralph Ungermann, he was R&D department manager responsible for all MOS products, except for dynamic memories. [20]


Zilog was the first company entirely dedicated to microprocessors started by Federico Faggin and Ralph Ungermann in November 1974. Faggin was Zilog's President and CEO until the end of 1980 and he conceived and designed the Z80 CPU and its family of programmable peripheral components. He also co-designed the CPU whose project leader was Masatoshi Shima. [23] The Z80-CPU was a major improvement over the 8080, yet it retained software compatibility with it. Much faster and with more than twice as many registers and instructions of the 8080, it was part of a family of components that included several intelligent peripherals (the Z80-PIO, a programmable parallel input-output controller; the Z80-CTC, a programmable counter-timer; the Z80-SIO, programmable serial communications interface controller, and the Z80-DMA, programmable direct memory access controller). This chip family allowed the design of powerful and low-cost microcomputers with performance comparable to minicomputers. The Z80-CPU had a substantially better bus structure and interrupt structure than the 8080 and could interface directly with dynamic RAM, since it included an internal memory-refresh controller. The Z80 was used in many of the early personal computers, as well as in video game systems such as the ColecoVision, Sega Master System and Game Boy. The Z80 is still in volume production in 2017 [24] as a core microprocessor in various systems on a chip.

The Zilog Z8 micro controller (1978) was one of the first single-chip microcontrollers in the market. It integrated an 8-bit CPU, RAM, ROM and I/O facilities, sufficient for many control applications. Faggin conceived the Z8 in 1974, soon after he founded Zilog, but then decided to give priority to the Z80. The Z8 was designed in 1976–78 and is still in volume production today (2017).

The Communication CoSystem

The Communication CoSystem (1984). The Cosystem was conceived by Faggin and designed and produced by Cygnet Technologies, Inc., the second startup company of Faggin. Attached to a personal computer and to a standard phone line, the CoSystem could automatically handle all the personal voice and data communications of the user, including electronic mail, data-base access, computer screen transfers during a voice communication, call record keeping, etc. The patent covering the CoSystem [25] is highly cited in the personal communication field.


In 1986 Faggin co-founded and was CEO of Synaptics [26] until 1999, becoming Chairman from 1999 to 2009. Synaptics was initially dedicated to R&D in artificial neural networks for pattern-recognition applications using analog VLSI. Synaptics introduced the I1000, the world's first single-chip optical character recognizer in 1991. In 1994, Synaptics introduced the touchpad to replace the cumbersome trackball then in use in laptop computers. The touchpad was broadly adopted by the industry. Synaptics also introduced the early touchscreens that were eventually adopted for intelligent phones and tablets; applications that now dominate the market. Faggin came up with the general product idea and led a group of engineers who further refined the idea through many brainstorming sessions. Faggin is a co-inventor of ten patents assigned to Synaptics. He is chairman emeritus of Synaptics.


During his tenure as president and CEO of Foveon, from 2003 to 2008, Faggin revitalized the company and provided a new technological and business direction resulting in image sensors superior in all critical parameters to the best sensors of the competition, while using approximately half the chip size of competing devices.[ citation needed ] Faggin also oversaw the successful acquisition of Foveon by the Japanese Sigma Corporation in November 2008. [27]

Federico and Elvia Faggin Foundation

Founded in 2011 the "Federico and Elvia Faggin Foundation" supports the scientific study of consciousness at US universities and research institutes. The purpose of the Foundation is to advance the understanding of consciousness through theoretical and experimental research. Faggin's interest in consciousness has his roots in the study of artificial neural networks at Synaptics, a company he started in 1986, that prompted his inquiry into whether or not it is possible to build a conscious computer. [28]


On the silicon gate technology and the Fairchild 3708

On the 4004 microprocessor



Source: the book written by Angelo Gallippi titled: Faggin, Il padre del chip intelligente (Faggin, the father of the intelligent chip). Editor Adnkronos, Rome, first edition September 2002, covers the above-mentioned awards (pp. 279–285). Its second edition, February 2012, titled Federico Faggin, il padre del microprocessor (Federico Faggin, the father of the microprocessor). Editor Tecniche nuove, Milan, covers also the topic of Faggin's interest in consciousness and his Federico and Elvia Faggin Foundation (pp. 182–187). Angelo Gallippi, a physicist, has been teaching Scientific and Technical Communication at the University La Sapienza in Rome. He is author of a dozen books and of an English-Italian Dictionary of informatics and multimedia (text translated from book cover in Italian)

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Intel 8080 8-bit microprocessor

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Integrated circuit electronic circuit manufactured by lithography; set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece (or "chip") of semiconductor material, normally silicon

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Motorola 6800

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Zilog American manufacturer

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Masatoshi Shima Japanese computer pioneer

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Stanley Mazor is an American microelectronics engineer who was born on 22 October 1941 in Chicago, Illinois. He is one of the co-inventors of the world's first microprocessor, the Intel 4004, together with Ted Hoff, Masatoshi Shima, and Federico Faggin.

The 6 µm process is the level of semiconductor process technology that was reached around 1974, by leading semiconductor companies such as Toshiba and Intel.


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