NEW YORK — International Business Machines on Wednesday announced that it had developed the world's fastest dynamic memory chip for computers.
Researchers at a conference in San Francisco reported that IBM had built experimental chips that could retrieve one unit, or bit, of information in 20 billionths of a second--three times more rapidly than any existing chip.
IBM said the new chips belong to a class known as dynamic random access memories, or DRAMs, the most common type of chip used to store data in computers.
While this breakthrough will apply mostly to computers, faster memory chips eventually will mean more efficient and sophisticated electronics ranging from toasters to missile systems.
It also demonstrates an underlying strength of the U.S. chip industry. Analyst Mark Giudici of Dataquest Inc. said that while U.S. chip makers have been forced out of the market for many mass-produced semiconductors by the Japanese, they can still break new ground in the development of advanced products.
"This shows that the IBMs and AT&Ts can hold their own in the world marketplace," he said.
IBM is the world's largest chip maker, but it produces only for its own use. It has been battling with Japanese giants like NEC Corp. and Toshiba Corp. to remain at the forefront of the industry.
Most research so far has focused on cramming more data onto a chip--increasing the storage space to 16 megabits (16 million bits) from earlier chips that could hold only 64 kilobits (64,000 bits).
But an IBM spokesman said "how fast you get information on and off a chip is also important." A faster memory chip would accelerate a computer's functions.
IBM said its experiments showed that DRAMs, traditionally used for jobs requiring expansive memories, can also attain speeds approaching those of its high-speed cousin, the static random access memories.
IBM also said it had an experimental 144-kilobit SRAM that could retrieve data in 11 billionths of a second, making it the fastest chip of its kind.IBM said that chip uses an advanced complementary metal oxide semiconductor, or CMOS, design.
The company also announced an experimental one-megabit SRAM based on the world's smallest six-transistor memory cell. This chip can be cut by a laser to fit anywhere from personal computers to supercomputers, IBM said.