Bits & Bytes
FASTER, FASTER: THIS CHIP DOES 255 CHORES AT ONCE
New microprocessors such as Intel Corp.'s Pentium and IBM's PowerPC will vastly speed up personal computers--but only if they can get at the data quickly. And the special controller chips that manage the operations of hard-disk drives often can't keep up with the demands from fast microprocessors for more data. It's especially obvious with new operating systems, such as Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT, that can do many jobs at once and are capable of asking for different data stored on various hard drives simultaneously.
On June 13, San Jose (Calif.) startup AdvanSys Inc. will introduce a $22 controller chip that may help solve the problem. The tiny processor, combined with a fast memory chip, uses a special algorithm to process up to 255 simultaneous data requests from multiple drives, compared with just four for most current drive controllers. With current chips, any more than four data requests must be stored on the PC's random-access memory, slowing things down. A $379 circuit-card kit will upgrade individual PCs. But the technology may prove most useful in larger file servers in networks, where many people seek data from the same computer concurrently.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG