20 September 2009

The Grumman F-14 Tomcat was the first fighter aircraft to rely on a digital computer to optimize its performance, primarily through the adjustment of the wing sweep. The aerospace company Garrett AiResearch won the contract from Grumman to design the F-14's central air data computer. Garrett's previous work was the air data computer on the McDonnell F-4 Phantom II, which was electromechanical in that it used watch-like gears and cams in an enclosure two feet long and three feet high. The same feat would be replicated in the Tomcat on a 40-inch square circuit board. Engineers and scientists created a six-chip processor containing 65 kilobytes of data that flew on the Tomcat's first flight in 1970.

While Intel Corporation gets credit for producing the world's first single-chip microprocessor in 1971, Garrett AiResearch's microprocessor beat it by one year but it used six chips instead of a single chip.

Source: Air & Space Smithsonian, September 2009. "Road to the Future...Is Paved with Good Inventions- The Tomcat's Brain" by Linda Shiner, p27.

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