Intel chips have run our desktop PCs and laptops for decades. They drive the hundreds of thousands of computer servers that underpin websites like Google and Facebook. And they’re now heading towards the new wave of wearable computers. But the chip maker’s greatest triumph was putting a microprocessor inside the head of Homer Simpson.
It happened in November of 1998, during a commercial break mid-way through the season premiere of the The X-Files. You can see the footage above.
For years, its technicians had been working to make PCs smarter, Intel told the world in this wonderfully funny TV spot, but now they were facing their greatest challenge yet. And then it cuts to Homer on the operating table, as bunny-suited Intel engineers prepare to implant a Pentium II chip in his brain.
“No one messes with my brain,” Homer says. “Until I get sprinkles.” And then he whips out a doughnut. So one of the bunny techs fires some anesthetic into Homer’s favorite snack, and the operation commences. “Now anyone can have all the brain power they want,” says our narrator, that Simpsons mainstay, Harry Shearer.
In just two weeks, the 7.5-million transistor Pentium II chip transforms Homer into a world-class expert in organic chemistry. And naturally, he uses his newfound smarts to engineer the world’s densest doughnut. Of course, Intel wants everyone to know what’s now powering his brain. As the ad pans to the back of his head, we see that familiar “Intel Inside” logo.
The Silicon Valley chip giant unloaded so many “Intel Inside” ads over the years, but this is one of the best. It has part of a broad marketing blitz in support of the Pentium II, the 1997 follow-up to the hugely successful Pentium. As pointed out by Kevin Krewell, a principal analyst at TIRIAS Research and a member of the Computer History Museum’s Semiconductor Special Interest Group in Mountain View, California, the Pentium II was based on a beefy computer workstation chip called the Pentium Pro, but unlike the Pro, it was meant for mainstream desktop PCs. It was not meant for your brain. But we’re fine with Intel taking some poetic license — especially when the Simpsons are involved.