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AST Developing Energy-Efficient 'Green' PCs : Technology: When turned on but not in active use, the computers will fall dormant, drawing half the usual electricity.


IRVINE — On Earth Day, appropriately enough, AST Research Inc. announced that it is developing an environmentally correct personal computer.

Dubbed "green PCs" by the technology industry, the computers will go into a low-wattage "sleep" mode while idle. The company said Thursday that it expects to introduce its line of energy-efficient computers later this year.

Green PCs are the wave of the future. Other computer companies, including International Business Machines Corp. and chip maker Intel Corp., also are developing technology to reduce electricity consumption.

When turned on but not in active use, AST's new computer will automatically fall dormant--its screen dimming and its hard disk drive shutting down--after a programmed length of time. While hibernating, the machine will use a maximum of 30 watts of electricity each for the monitor and the system--less than half of what a personal computer usually consumes. It will instantly come back to life when operated again.

The computer will comply with guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency's voluntary Energy Star program, a cooperative government-industry effort to cut energy consumption.

Personal computers are estimated to idle nearly 80% of the time they are turned on. Computer systems account for 5% of commercial electricity use in the United States, according to the EPA, and could account for 10% by the year 2000.

A move toward the production of green computers makes good business and environmental sense, said Tom Pryzgoda, a product specialist with AST: "Eventually, government agencies will not buy anything but energy-efficient systems. Green PCs will become standard."

In Thursday's trading on the NASDAQ market, AST's stock closed at $14.125 a share, up 62.5 cents.

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