New computer chips pack a punch

Bridge News

NEW YORK -Technology giant IBM Corp. said Monday it will start selling computer chips fast enough to handle applications such as speech recognition and wireless video in the first quarter of 2001. Chipmaker Intel Corp. unveiled the technology to create chips five times faster than that.

The two companies have reduced circuit size to boost processing speeds and data-storage capacity. The smaller a circuit is, the faster it can operate and the more data can be crammed onto a computer chip.

IBM’s latest chips will have circuits with widths of 0.13 microns, 27 percent narrower than the 0.18-micron circuits currently on the market. A micron is one-millionth of a meter; a human hair is estimated to be 50 microns wide.

IBM, the world’s No. 1 provider of computer hardware, said it plans to ship the faster, two-gigahertz chips in the first quarter of 2001. The chips will be manufactured using a new IBM process dubbed CMOS 9S that uses silicon-on-insulator transistors and improved insulation and copper wiring.

CMOS, or complementary metal-oxide semiconductor, is the technology used in a microchip’s transistors.

The Armonk, N.Y.-based company said it is running a pilot test using the production technique and will begin high-volume manufacturing in early 2001. IBM plans to use the technology to make future generations of its IBM Power4 processors for its Regatta servers.

The biggest maker of semiconductors for personal computers, Intel said it had developed the world’s smallest and fastest transistor with circuits just 0.03 microns wide.

About 400 million of these transistors in a computer chip will allow processing speeds of up to 10 gigahertz. The Pentium 4 processor, which was launched last month, includes 42 million transistors and runs at 1.5 gigahertz.

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