Affordable Computers For Folks Who Can't Afford Mistakes

Tandem Computers Inc.'s fail-safe computers keep stock exchanges and massive networks of automatic-teller machines running even when part of the system fails. But at a cost of up to $10 million each, these "fault-tolerant" computers don't fit the budgets of many companies. On Oct. 28, Tandem hopes to change that with new machines, priced from $25,000 to $1.9 million, that offer up to twice the performance for the money than current models.

The boost comes from using reduced instruction-set computing chips designed by MIPS Computer Systems Inc. The MIPS technology allows Tandem to build faster systems more cheaply than it can with its own processors. Tandem hopes customers will use the new systems where its large ones don't fit--for processing transactions within a bank branch, for instance. The company could use a pick-me-up: Troubles in the banking industry, its main market, have kept earnings in a slump for the past few quarters. In its third quarter, ended in June, net plunged 77%, to $7.3 million, from 1990.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.