Chipmakers' Sneak Preview Of Tomorrow's Memories

The shape of computer memory chips that will dominate electronic technology in the late 1990s will emerge from a high-powered engineers' meeting in mid-February. At this year's International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco, four of Japan's top chipmakers--Toshiba, Mitsubishi, Matsushita, and Fujitsu--will unveil their designs for dynamic random-access memories (DRAMs) that can store 64 megabits of data. Roughly, that's the equivalent of 2,000 single-spaced typewritten pages.

Don't look for these monster memories to show up in quantity before 1994, though. The technology required to print silicon wafers with upwards of 100 million tiny transistors, connected by circuit lines a mere 0.4 micron wide, still needs to be refined. But once perfected, these chips will no doubt become the workhorse for the rest of this century. And when other leading producers such as NEC, Hitachi, and Texas Instruments join the market, annual sales are expected to peak at 900 million units in the year 2000.

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