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Having a sporadic section has worked out well with our recently introduced MailBITS, so we’re introducing another section, called TechnoBITS. Here you’ll find little bits of information about new and emerging technologies (real ones, this week) that don’t warrant a whole article.

Intel recently showed a prototype 100 MHz version of its 80486 chip at the International Solid State Circuits Conference. The completed chip will probably be slightly less than three times as fast as the 33 MHz version. The prototype chip works with 5 V of power at room temperature with a normal heat sink, but Intel needs to iron out problems such as RFI noise and locating other chips with speeds fast enough to complement the 100 MHz 486.

MIT and IBM are working on a chip that will be far faster than any current chips if they can make it work at normal temperatures (my feet get a little chilly when the room temperature hovers around absolute zero). The chip doesn’t use a stream of electrons like current chips – instead it turns on and off a single electron, which is far more efficient.

I love new input devices, and BioControl Systems of Palo Alto may have one of the best so far. It’s a device mounted on a headband that monitors the electrical field movement of your eyes and moves an object on the screen accordingly. BioControl Systems is looking for capital to go beyond the current prototype, possibly first into video game control, but eventually into mouse-type manipulations. It sounds like a wonderful idea, but could play havoc with your eyes after a while.

MIPS and National Semiconductor have each come up with 64-bit RISC chips that are highly desired by high-end graphics people. A 64-bit chip will help in two areas – number of colors available and addressable memory size. Considering that the current 32-bit chips can have 24-bit color and use the additional 8-bits as an alpha channel for transparency (as the NeXT does), a 64-bit chip could have 48-bits of color and 16-bits for an alpha channel. By my rough calculation, that makes for 2.814749767 E14 colors. I’m no expert, but I doubt that any monitor made could display that kind of subtlety, and the human eye might not be able to distinguish it even if the monitor was capable of it. The other problem is that a 32-bit chip can only address 4 gigabytes of memory, which is apparently starting to cramp some image processing people. A 64-bit chip, though, is edging into the whomptillion (a unit of measure usually used with respect to the US federal deficit) range – 1.844674407 E19 bytes of memory. I couldn’t find a real term for such a large number, but either 18 megaterabytes or 18 gigagigabytes should work. Take your pick One way or another, it should hold these people for a while.

Related articles:
PC WEEK — 21-Jan-91, Vol. 5, #3, pg. 1
BYTE — Apr-91, pg. 27
InfoWorld — 25-Feb-91, Vol. 13, #8, pg. 22
New York Times — 17-Feb-91, pg 8 (Business section)
BYTE — Mar-91, pg. 32
InfoWorld — 25-Feb-91, Vol. 13, #8, pg. 22

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