Intel is celebrating the 40th birthday of the first commercially available microprocessor – with the fondly remembered Intel 4004 arriving on this day in 1971.

The microprocessor has fundamentally changed the world that we live in, and it has come a long way since its arrival, with the eerily accurate Moore's Law dictating that every two years will see processing power double.

Intel points out that this means today's second gen Intel Core processors offer up 350,000 times the performance, with each transistor using 5,000 times less energy.

Price drop

Fortunately the price of the transistor has dropped by a factor of about 50,000, allowing the microprocessor to proliferate in our everyday consumer electronics.

So what of the future? "The sheer number of advances in the next 40 years will equal or surpass all of the innovative activity that has taken place over the last 10,000 years of human history," said Justin Rattner, Intel chief technology officer.

The immediate future for Intel will see the adoption of the 22nm manufacturing process and the arrival of 3D Tri-Gate transistors.

But for now, we can celebrate 40 years of the commercially available microprocessor, and laugh about how unsophisticated things used to be in the 1970s.