Japanese Lead Race to Market 1-Million-Bit Computer Chip
Several Japanese companies are the odds-on favorites to win the race to be the first on the market with the world’s largest computer-memory chip.
United States electronic giants American Telephone & Telegraph and International Business Machine have also disclosed plans to build a 1-million-bit chip, with four times greater storage capacity than the largest device now available.
But it is the Japanese who are expected to end up with the lion’s share of a market for 1-million-bit chips that Dataquest estimates will reach $1.5 billion in 1988 and about $10 billion in the early 1990s.
The 1-million-bit chip has been the holy grail of the electronics industry for some time, part of the computer designer’s unending quest to put more power into a smaller package.
A memory chip is a fingernail-sized slice of silicon. Small discs covered with these chips form the brains of a computer, reading and executing the software that make up the operating system and applications programs. The larger a computer’s memory, the more complex the software it can understand.
Memory is measured in bits, with each bit representing a one or a zero. A string of eight bits forms a byte, and each byte represents a letter, number or other character.
A typical personal computer can store 64,000 bytes of data in its main memory, equal to about 250 typewritten pages. A computer using 1-million-bit memory chips could store 4,000 pages in the same amount of space.
Fujitsu, Hitachi, NEC, Mitsubishi and Toshiba are all working on megachips of a type known as Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM), the fastest growing segment of the chip market.
Given their record against the two American corporate giants, analysts expect at least three of these companies will be ready to produce sometime this year.