Ever since the development of the first micro-controllers engineers have been developing clever ways to put those tiny brains to work. The first recollection of a tiny brain that this engineer has is the Intel 4004, a 4 bit processor. It was the first to incorporate every function of a computer on a single chip and it was revolutionary. Released into the wild in 1971, this versatile machine was rapidly replaced by faster and more powerful core processors. The rapid progression into the world of 8 bits found Intel at the forefront again with the Intel 8080 and 8080a. Followed rapidly by the Z-80 and later the 8086, 16 bit addressing became standard. Today, we have the ability to embed 64 bit power and beyond into the smallest of handheld devices.
Transport a human from 1950 into the world of today and what we take for granted would overwhelm them. Can you even remember life before cell phones? Before microwave ovens? Before GPS systems for your car or in your pocket? Even the trusty old pocket calculator would knock your visitor from last century into a stupor. All of those things have a common denominator. They have a brain that is embedded in them to carry out the basic functions of their design and most of the complex operations that we, as users, could accomplish with great difficulty and lots of time.