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Japanese Lead Race to Market 1-Million-Bit Computer Chip

From Reuters

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.

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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.

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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.


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