In computer architecture, 4-bit integers, memory addresses, or other data units are those that are 4 bits wide. Also, 4-bit CPU and ALU architectures are those that are based on registers, address buses, or data buses of that size. A group of four bits is also called a nibble and has 24 = 16 possible values.

Some of the first microprocessors had a 4-bit word length and were developed around 1970. The TMS 1000, the world's first single-chip microprocessor, was a 4-bit CPU; it had a Harvard architecture, with an on-chip instruction ROM, 8-bit-wide instructions and an on-chip data RAM with 4-bit words.[1] The first commercial microprocessor was the binary-coded decimal (BCD-based) Intel 4004,[2][3] developed for calculator applications in 1971; it had a 4-bit word length, but had 8-bit instructions and 12-bit addresses.

The HP Saturn processors, used in many Hewlett-Packard calculators between 1984 and 2003 (including the HP 48 series of scientific calculators) are "4-bit" (or hybrid 64-/4-bit) machines; as the Intel 4004 did, they string multiple 4-bit words together, e.g. to form a 20-bit memory address, and most of the registers are 64 bits wide, storing 16 4-bit digits.[4][5][6]

The 4-bit processors were programmed in assembly language or Forth, e.g. "MARC4 Family of 4 bit Forth CPU"[7] because of the extreme size constraint on programs and because common programming languages (for microcontrollers, 8-bit and larger), such as the C programming language, do not support 4-bit data types (C requires that the size of the char data type be at least 8 bits,[8] and that all data types other than bitfields have a size that is a multiple of the character size[9][10][11]). While larger than 4-bit values can be used by combining more than one manually, the language has to support the smaller values used in the combining. If not, assembly is the only option.

The 1970s saw the emergence of 4-bit software applications for mass markets like pocket calculators. During the 1980s 4-bit microprocessor were used in handheld electronic games to keep costs low.

In the 1970s and 1980s, a number of research and commercial computers used bit slicing, in which the CPU's arithmetic logic unit (ALU) was built from multiple 4-bit-wide sections, each section including a chip such as an Am2901 or 74181 chip.

The Zilog Z80, although it is an 8-bit microprocessor, has a 4-bit ALU.[12][13]

Modern uses

While 32- and 64-bit processors are more prominent in modern consumer electronics, 4-bit CPUs continue to be used (usually as part of a microcontroller) in cost-sensitive applications that require minimal computing power. For example, one bicycle computer specifies that it uses a "4-bit 1-chip microcomputer".[14] Other typical uses include coffee makers, infrared remote controls,[15] and security alarms.[16]

Use of 4-bit processors has declined relative to 8-bit or even 32-bit processors, as they are hard to find cheaper in general computer suppliers' stores. The simplest kinds are not available in any of them, and others are "non-stock" and more expensive.[17] (A few expensive ones can be found, as of 2014, on eBay.)[18][19][20]

Electronics stores still carry, as of 2014, non-CPU/non-MCU 4-bit chips, such as counters.

As of 2015, most PC motherboards, especially laptop motherboards, use a 4-bit LPC bus (introduced in 1998) to connect the southbridge to the motherboard firmware flash ROM (UEFI or BIOS) and the Super I/O chip.[21][22]


With 4 bits, it is possible to create 16 different values. All single-digit hexadecimal numbers can be written with four bits. Binary-coded decimal is a digital encoding method for numbers using decimal notation, with each decimal digit represented by four bits.

Binary Octal Decimal Hexadecimal
0000 0 0 0
0001 1 1 1
0010 2 2 2
0011 3 3 3
0100 4 4 4
0101 5 5 5
0110 6 6 6
0111 7 7 7
1000 10 8 8
1001 11 9 9
1010 12 10 A
1011 13 11 B
1100 14 12 C
1101 15 13 D
1110 16 14 E
1111 17 15 F

List of 4-bit processors

Intel C4004 greytraces CPU
Intel C4004
Alps remote control BHR970001B-7517
an infrared remote control transmitter controlled by a NEC D63GS 4-bit microcontroller
Alps remote control BHR970001B - NEC D63GS-7525
NEC D63GS: a 4-bit microcontroller for infrared remote control transmission
Olympia CD700 Desktop Calculator. 1971.Microprogrammable Arithmetic Processor System Devices (MAPS)
Olympia CD700 Desktop Calculator using the National Semiconductor MAPS MM570X bit-serial 4-bit microcontroller
National Semiconductor MM5700CA D Microprocessor
National Semiconductor MM5700CA/D bit-serial 4-bit microcontroller

See also


  1. ^ TMS 1000 Series Data Manual (PDF). Texas Instruments. December 1976. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
  2. ^ Mack, Pamela E. (November 30, 2005). "The Microcomputer Revolution". Retrieved 2009-12-23.
  3. ^ "History in the Computing Curriculum" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2017-06-22.
  4. ^ "The Saturn Processor". Retrieved December 23, 2015.
  5. ^ "Guide to the Saturn Processor". Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  6. ^ "Introduction to Saturn Assembly Language". Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  7. ^ Forth Chips.
  8. ^ ISO/IEC 9899:1999 specification. p. 20, §
  9. ^ ISO/IEC 9899:1999 specification. p. 37, § (4).
  10. ^ Marshall Cline. "C++ FAQ: the rules about bytes, chars, and characters".
  11. ^ "4-bit integer". cplusplus.com. Retrieved November 21, 2014.
  12. ^ Masatoshi Shima; Federico Faggin; Ralph Ungermann; Michael Slater. "Zilog Oral History Panel on the Founding of the Company and the Development of the Z80 Microprocessor".
  13. ^ Ken Shirriff. "The Z-80 has a 4-bit ALU".
  14. ^ "Cateye Commuter Manual" (PDF). Retrieved February 11, 2014.
  15. ^ a b μPD67, 67A, 68, 68A, 69 4-bit single-chip microcontroller for infrared remote control transmission
  16. ^ Haskell, Richard. "Introduction to Digital Logic and Microprocessors (Lecture 12.2)". Retrieved February 11, 2014.
  17. ^ "Embedded - Microcontrollers - Integrated Circuits (ICs) - DigiKey". www.digikey.com. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  18. ^ "Other Integrated Circuits - eBay". eBay. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  19. ^ "Motorola IC MC14500B / MC14500BCL ( 100% NEW ) - eBay". eBay. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  20. ^ "KL1868VE1 Soviet CMOS Clone Matsushita MN15500 4bit MCU - eBay". eBay. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  21. ^ Scott Mueller. "Upgrading and Repairing Laptops". 2004. p. 176.
  22. ^ David S. Lawyer. "Plug-and-Play-HOWTO: LPC Bus" 2007.
  23. ^ "MARC4 4-bit Microcontrollers - Programmer's Guide" (PDF). Atmel. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-12-15. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  24. ^ "MARC4 4-Bit Architecture". Atmel. Archived from the original on May 31, 2009.
  25. ^ "Product End-of-Life (EOL) Notification" (PDF). Atmel. March 7, 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 7, 2016.
  26. ^ μPD6P9 4-bit single-chip microcontroller for infrared remote control transmission
  27. ^ μPD17240, 17241, 17242, 17243, 17244, 17245, 17246 4-bit single-chip microcontrollers for small general-purpose infrared remote control transmitters
  28. ^ Microcontrollers for Remote Controllers
  29. ^ "Mask ROM/ROMless Products 4/8bit Remote Control". Archived from the original on October 28, 2008.
  30. ^ Robert Cravotta. "Embedded Processing Directory"
  31. ^ "EM6580". Archived from the original on 2013-12-19. Retrieved 2013-05-12.
  32. ^ "EM6580 low power Flash 4-bit microcontroller"
  33. ^ "EM6682"
  34. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Sharp Microcomputers Data Book (PDF). September 1990. Retrieved January 5, 2018.

External links

AMD Am2900

Am2900 is a family of integrated circuits (ICs) created in 1975 by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). They were constructed with bipolar devices, in a bit-slice topology, and were designed to be used as modular components each representing a different aspect of a computer control unit (CCU). By using the bit slicing technique, Am2900 family was able to implement a CCU with data, addresses, and instructions to be any multiple of 4 bits by multiplying the number of ICs. One major problem with this modular technique was that it required a larger number of ICs to implement what could be done on a single CPU IC. The Am2901 chip was the arithmetic-logic unit (ALU), and the "core" of the series. It could count using 4 bits and implement binary operations as well as various bit-shifting operations.

The 2901 and some other chips in the family were second sourced by an unusually large number of other manufacturers, starting with Motorola and then Raytheon – both in 1975 – and also Cypress Semiconductor, National Semiconductor, NEC, Thomson, and Signetics. In the Soviet Union and later Russia the Am2900 family was manufactured as the 1804 series (with e.g. the Am2901 designated as KR1804VS1 / Russian: КР1804ВС1) which was still in production as of 2016.

Apple Icon Image format

The Apple Icon Image format is the icon format used in Apple Inc.'s macOS. It supports icons of 16 × 16, 32 × 32, 48 × 48, 128 × 128, 256 × 256, 512 × 512, and 1024 × 1024 pixels, with both 1- and 8-bit alpha channels and multiple image states (example: open and closed folders). The fixed-size icons can be scaled by the operating system and displayed at any intermediate size.

Apple Scanner

In August 1988 Apple Computer introduced the Apple Scanner. It was their first A4 (8.5 in × 14.0 in) flatbed scanner. It was capable of a 4-bit image with 16 levels of grey in a maximum resolution of 300 dpi. The scanner could complete a full scan in 20.4 seconds. It shipped with a SCSI connection with an optional ADB port.

The scanner was upgraded to the short-lived Apple OneScanner in 1991 with 256 levels of grey.

Bit slicing

Bit slicing is a technique for constructing a processor from modules of processors of smaller bit width, for the purpose of increasing the word length; in theory to make an arbitrary n-bit CPU. Each of these component modules processes one bit field or "slice" of an operand. The grouped processing components would then have the capability to process the chosen full word-length of a particular software design.

Bit slicing more or less died out due to the advent of the microprocessor. Recently it's been used in ALUs for quantum computers, and has been used as a software technique (e.g. in x86 CPUs, for cryptography.)


The byte is a unit of digital information that most commonly consists of eight bits, representing a binary number. Historically, the byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer and for this reason it is the smallest addressable unit of memory in many computer architectures.

The size of the byte has historically been hardware dependent and no definitive standards existed that mandated the size – byte-sizes from 1 to 48 bits are known to have been used in the past. Early character encoding systems often used six bits, and machines using six-bit and nine-bit bytes were common into the 1960s. These machines most commonly had memory words of 12, 24, 36, 48 or 60 bits, corresponding to two, four, six, eight or 10 six-bit bytes. In this era, bytes in the instruction stream were often referred to as syllables, before the term byte became common.

The modern de-facto standard of eight bits, as documented in ISO/IEC 2382-1:1993, is a convenient power of two permitting the values 0 through 255 for one byte (2 in power of 8 = 256, where zero signifies a number as well). The international standard IEC 80000-13 codified this common meaning. Many types of applications use information representable in eight or fewer bits and processor designers optimize for this common usage. The popularity of major commercial computing architectures has aided in the ubiquitous acceptance of the eight-bit size. Modern architectures typically use 32- or 64-bit words, built of four or eight bytes.

The unit symbol for the byte was designated as the upper-case letter B by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in contrast to the bit, whose IEEE symbol is a lower-case b. Internationally, the unit octet, symbol o, explicitly denotes a sequence of eight bits, eliminating the ambiguity of the byte.

Color depth

Color depth or colour depth (see spelling differences), also known as bit depth, is either the number of bits used to indicate the color of a single pixel, in a bitmapped image or video framebuffer, or the number of bits used for each color component of a single pixel. For consumer video standards, such as High Efficiency Video Coding (H.265), the bit depth specifies the number of bits used for each color component. When referring to a pixel, the concept can be defined as bits per pixel (bpp), which specifies the number of bits used. When referring to a color component, the concept can be defined as bits per component, bits per channel, bits per color (all three abbreviated bpc), and also bits per pixel component, bits per color channel or bits per sample (bps). Color depth is only one aspect of color representation, expressing the precision with which colors can be expressed; the other aspect is how broad a range of colors can be expressed (the gamut). The definition of both color precision and gamut is accomplished with a color encoding specification which assigns a digital code value to a location in a color space.

GOST 10859

GOST 10859 (1964) is a standard of the Soviet Union which defined how to encode data on punched cards. This standard allowed a variable word size, depending on the type of data being encoded, but only uppercase characters.

These include the non-ASCII ⏨ (U+23E8 ⏨ DECIMAL EXPONENT SYMBOL). It was used to express real numbers in scientific notation. For example: 6.0221415⏨23.

The ⏨ character was also part of the ALGOL programming language specifications and was incorporated into the then German character encoding standard ALCOR. GOST 10859 also included numerous other non-ASCII characters/symbols useful to ALGOL programmers, e.g.: ∨, ∧, ⊃, ≡, ¬, ≠, ↑, ↓, ×, ÷, ≤, ≥, °, &, ∅, compare with ALGOL operators.

The ␡ character served the same function as the ␡ in 7-bit ASCII.

Handspring (company)

Handspring, Inc was a maker of Palm OS–based Visor- and Treo-branded personal digital assistants. In 2003, the company merged with Palm, Inc.'s hardware division.

Intel 4004

The Intel 4004 is a 4-bit central processing unit (CPU) released by Intel Corporation in 1971. It was the first commercially available microprocessor by Intel, and the first in a long line of Intel CPUs.

The chip design started in April 1970, when Federico Faggin joined Intel, and was completed under his leadership in January 1971. The first commercial sale of the fully operational 4004 occurred in March 1971 to Busicom Corp. of Japan for which it was originally designed and built as a custom chip. In mid-November of the same year, with the prophetic ad "Announcing a new era in integrated electronics", the 4004 was made commercially available to the general market. The 4004 was the first commercially available monolithic processor, fully integrated in one small chip. Such a feat of integration was made possible by the use of the then-new silicon gate technology for integrated circuits, originally developed by Faggin (with Tom Klein) at Fairchild Semiconductor in 1968, which allowed twice the number of random-logic transistors and an increase in speed by a factor of five compared to the incumbent MOS aluminum gate technology. Faggin also invented the bootstrap load with silicon gate and the “buried contact”, improving speed and circuit density compared with aluminum gate.The 4004 microprocessor, the 4001 ROM, 4002 RAM, and 4003 Shift Register constituted the 4 chips in the Intel MCS-4 chip-set. With these components, small computers with varying amounts of memory and I/O facilities can be built.

Intel 4040

The Intel 4040 microprocessor was the successor to the Intel 4004. It was introduced in 1974. The 4040 employed a 10 μm silicon gate enhancement load PMOS technology, was made up of 3,000 transistors and could execute approximately 62,000 instructions per second. General performance, bus layout and instruction set was identical to the 4004, with the main improvements being in the addition of extra lines and instructions to recognise and service interrupts and hardware Halt/Stop commands (the latter allowing operator-controlled single-stepping for debugging purposes), an extended internal stack and general-purpose "Index" register space to handle nesting of several subroutines and/or interrupts, plus a doubling of program ROM address range.

JH (hash function)

JH is a cryptographic hash function submitted to the NIST hash function competition by Hongjun Wu. Though chosen as one of the five finalists of the competition, JH ultimately lost to NIST hash candidate Keccak. JH has a 1024-bit state, and works on 512-bit input blocks. Processing an input block consists of three steps:

XOR the input block into the left half of the state.

Apply a 42-round unkeyed permutation (encryption function) to the state. This consists of 42 repetitions of:

Break the input into 256 4-bit blocks, and map each through one of two 4-bit S-boxes, the choice being made by a 256-bit round-dependent key schedule. Equivalently, combine each input block with a key bit, and map the result through a 5→4 bit S-box.

Mix adjacent 4-bit blocks using a maximum distance separable code over GF(24).

Permute 4-bit blocks so that they will be adjacent to different blocks in following rounds.

XOR the input block into the right half of the state.The resulting digest is the first 224, 256, 384 or 512 bits from the 1024-bit final value.

It is well suited to a bit slicing implementation using the SSE2 instruction set, giving speeds of 16.8 cycles per byte.

List of 7400-series integrated circuits

The following is a list of 7400-series digital logic integrated circuits. The original 7400-series integrated circuits were made by Texas Instruments with the prefix "SN" to create the name SN74xx. Due to the popularity of these parts, other manufacturers have released pin-to-pin compatible devices which kept the 7400 sequence number as an aid to identification of compatible parts. However, different manufacturers will use different prefixes or no prefix at all.

List of AMD microprocessors

This article gives a list of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) microprocessors, sorted by generation and release year. If applicable and openly known, the designation(s) of each processor's core (versions) is (are) listed in parentheses.

List of monochrome and RGB palettes

This list of monochrome and RGB palettes includes generic repertoires of colors (color palettes) to produce black-and-white and RGB color pictures by a computer's display hardware, not necessarily the total number of such colors that can be simultaneously displayed in a given text or graphic mode of any machine. RGB is the most common method to produce colors for displays; so these complete RGB color repertoires have every possible combination of R-G-B triplets within any given maximum number of levels per component.

For specific hardware and different methods to produce colors other than RGB, see the List of 8-bit computer hardware palettes, the List of 16-bit computer hardware palettes and the List of videogame consoles palettes. For various software arrangements and sorts of colors, including other possible full RGB arrangements within 8-bit color depth displays, see the List of software palettes.

Each palette is represented by a series of color patches. When the number of colors is low, a 1-pixel-size version of the palette appears below it, for easily comparing relative palette sizes. Huge palettes are given directly in one-color-per-pixel color patches.

For each unique palette, an image color test chart and sample image (truecolor original follows) rendered with that palette (without dithering) are given. The test chart shows the full 256 levels of the red, green, and blue (RGB) primary colors and cyan, magenta, and yellow complementary colors, along with a full 256-level grayscale. Gradients of RGB intermediate colors (orange, lime green, sea green, sky blue, violet, and fuchsia), and a full hue spectrum are also present. Color charts are not gamma corrected.

These elements illustrate the color depth and distribution of the colors of any given palette, and the sample image indicates how the color selection of such palettes could represent real-life images. These images are not necessarily representative of how the image would be displayed on the original graphics hardware, as the hardware may have additional limitations regarding the maximum display resolution, pixel aspect ratio and color placement. For simulated sample images for notable computers, see the List of 8-bit computer hardware palettes and List of 16-bit computer hardware palettes articles.

Lucifer (cipher)

In cryptography, Lucifer was the name given to several of the earliest civilian block ciphers, developed by Horst Feistel and his colleagues at IBM. Lucifer was a direct precursor to the Data Encryption Standard. One version, alternatively named DTD-1, saw commercial use in the 1970s for electronic banking.

MARC4 Micro-Controller

The MARC4 was a family of 4-bit micro controllers. They were first introduced by Eurosil, then bought by Temic (currently part of conti), and finally acquired by Atmel. The micro controllers had a 4-bit architecture and were designed with extremely low power consumption in mind. They were used in radio frequency communication devices, home automation and telemetry. They competed with the S1C6x in the same area of applications.


In cryptography, an S-box (substitution-box) is a basic component of symmetric key algorithms which performs substitution. In block ciphers, they are typically used to obscure the relationship between the key and the ciphertext — Shannon's property of confusion.

In general, an S-box takes some number of input bits, m, and transforms them into some number of output bits, n, where n is not necessarily equal to m. An m×n S-box can be implemented as a lookup table with 2m words of n bits each. Fixed tables are normally used, as in the Data Encryption Standard (DES), but in some ciphers the tables are generated dynamically from the key (e.g. the Blowfish and the Twofish encryption algorithms).

One good example of a fixed table is the S-box from DES (S5), mapping 6-bit input into a 4-bit output:

Given a 6-bit input, the 4-bit output is found by selecting the row using the outer two bits (the first and last bits), and the column using the inner four bits. For example, an input "011011" has outer bits "01" and inner bits "1101"; the corresponding output would be "1001".The 8 S-boxes of DES were the subject of intense study for many years out of a concern that a backdoor — a vulnerability known only to its designers — might have been planted in the cipher. The S-box design criteria were eventually published (in Coppersmith 1994) after the public rediscovery of differential cryptanalysis, showing that they had been carefully tuned to increase resistance against this specific attack. Biham and Shamir found that even small modifications to an S-box could significantly weaken DES.There has been a great deal of research into the design of good S-boxes, and much more is understood about their use in block ciphers than when DES was released.Any S-box where each output bit is produced by a bent function of the input bits, and where any linear combination of the output bits is also a bent function of the input bits, is a perfect S-box.

Serpent (cipher)

Serpent is a symmetric key block cipher that was a finalist in the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) contest, where it was ranked second to Rijndael. Serpent was designed by Ross Anderson, Eli Biham, and Lars Knudsen.

Like other AES submissions, Serpent has a block size of 128 bits and supports a key size of 128, 192 or 256 bits. The cipher is a 32-round substitution–permutation network operating on a block of four 32-bit words. Each round applies one of eight 4-bit to 4-bit S-boxes 32 times in parallel. Serpent was designed so that all operations can be executed in parallel, using 32 bit slices. This maximizes parallelism, but also allows use of the extensive cryptanalysis work performed on DES.

Serpent took a conservative approach to security, opting for a large security margin: the designers deemed 16 rounds to be sufficient against known types of attack, but specified 32 rounds as insurance against future discoveries in cryptanalysis. The official NIST report on AES competition classified Serpent as having a high security margin along with MARS and Twofish, in contrast to the adequate security margin of RC6 and Rijndael (currently AES). In final voting, Serpent had the least number of negative votes among the finalists, but scored second place overall because Rijndael had substantially more positive votes, the deciding factor being that Rijndael allowed for a far more efficient software implementation.The Serpent cipher algorithm is in the public domain and has not been patented. The reference code is public domain software and the optimized code is under GPL. There are no restrictions or encumbrances whatsoever regarding its use. As a result, anyone is free to incorporate Serpent in their software (or hardware implementations) without paying license fees.

Yamaha YM2610

YM2610, a.k.a. OPNB, is a fifteen-channel sound chip developed by Yamaha. It's a member of Yamaha's OPN family of FM synthesis chips, and related to the YM2608. It was most notably used in SNK's Neo Geo arcade and home game systems, along with other arcade game systems. The YM2610 was used in conjunction with a YM3016 stereo DAC.

The YM2610 has the following features:

Four concurrent FM channels (voices), four operators per channel, DAC compatible with YM3016

Three SSG channels: compatible with YM2149 (Atari ST)

One programmable noise channel

ADPCM-A: Six ADPCM channels, fixed pitch, 18.5 kHz sampling rate at 12-bit from 4-bit data

ADPCM-B: One ADPCM channel, variable pitch, 18.5–55.5 kHz sampling rate

Two interval timers

A low frequency oscillator (LFO)The YM2610B variant added two extra FM channels for a total of six, but was identical in every other feature. It was used in Taito's arcade boards, such as the Taito Z System, amongst others.

Instruction set
Word size
Core count

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.