Plug And Play Simplicity For Ibm Type Pcs

Fans of Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh computer have long lauded the machine's ease of use. While advances in software such as Microsoft Corp.'s Windows give IBM-compatible PCs the same point-and-click commands as the Macintosh, the hardware still leaves a lot to be desired. Adding a CD-ROM drive to an IBM-compatible PC, for example, usually means opening the cover, adding a circuit board, and fiddling with computer commands. Mac owners, however, merely plug in the drive.

Now, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has introduced a computer chip that will help bring the same plug-and-play simplicity to IBM-type PCs. The postage-stamp-size chip mimics the functions of an Ethernet circuit card--used to link PCs in networks--and a small computer-systems interface (SCSI) card, which controls high-capacity hard drives and CD-ROM drives. If makers of PC clones put the chip on their motherboards, the machines will be ready to hook up to networks and SCSI devices right out of the box. The chip, due out next quarter, will cost PC makers less than $40. Meanwhile, Intel Corp. is pushing its own plug-and-play chips to PC makers, while Microsoft Corp. says its forthcoming "Chicago" operating system will reduce the hassles when adding new hardware.

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