Microsystems International

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Microprocessor MIL MF8008R, second source of the Intel 8008

Microsystems International Limited (MIL) was a telecommunications microelectronics company based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, founded in 1969.[1][2] MIL was an early attempt to create a merchant semiconductor house by Nortel Networks (then Northern Electric).[3] MIL was purchased and folded into Nortel's research arm Bell-Northern Research in 1974.

MIL is historically important as the producers of one of the world's earliest microprocessors, the MIL MF7114, which was based on the design of the Intel 4004. MIL also produced a series of early microcomputers using this chip, including the MIL CPS-1, which may be the earliest example of a microcomputer system that was shipped in completed form, as opposed to a kit that had to be assembled. Several other upgraded models followed.


DRAM MIL MF1103R, second source of the Intel 1103

Electronic manufacturers were at that time forced to create custom integrated circuits due to the lack of industry standard ICs. MIL was an attempt to create a merchant company that could supply such standard devices as well as custom devices for Northern Electric products. Northern Electric entered the field partly at the urging of the Canadian federal government even though it has strong doubts of the viability of the company.[3]

In 1971, MIL became a second source for the Intel 1103 DRAM IC.[4] The licensing fee paid by MIL to Intel meant that Intel could show a profit in 1971 for the first time in its history.[4]

MIL failed in the marketplace against other attempts to do the same thing (notably Texas Instruments and Intel). It was purchased and folded into Nortel's research arm Bell-Northern Research in 1974.

Terry Matthews and Michael Cowpland[edit]

MIL's most lasting contribution is that it was the meeting place for the entrepreneurs Terry Matthews and Michael Cowpland. The pair left the company to found much of the high tech industry in Kanata, Ontario, Canada. They started Mitel together. Cowpland later started Corel. Matthews later started Newbridge Networks. Cowpland's boss at MIL cautioned him against leaving the security of a large company just a few months before MIL was wound up.


  1. ^ Ken Polsson. "Chronology of Events in the History of Microcomputers". Archived from the original on 2006-05-15. Retrieved 2006-09-26.
  2. ^ Patterson, Anthony J. (1974-10-21). "Microsystem's misadventures prove costly". Ottawa Citizen. p. 72. Retrieved 2017-05-26.
  3. ^ a b Thomas, David (1983). Knights of the New Technology. Key Porter Books. ISBN 978-0919493162.
  4. ^ a b Tedlow, Richard S. (2006). Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American. Portfolio. pp. 141–142. ISBN 9781591841395.

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