Silicon Goes From Peak To Peak

In a boom that could last a decade, turning out enough chips is the big problem

For the companies that plant those teensy transistors on the silicon chips from which personal computers and other electronic gadgets sprout, 1996 shapes up as the fourth consecutive year of 20%-plus growth--26%, according to the Semiconductor Industry Assn. That's remarkable. Chipmaking has long gyrated through boom-and-bust cycles every three years or so. And while growth in 1996 won't match 1995's spectacular 40% sales jump, analysts still look for chipmakers to post per-share earnings gains averaging 29%.

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