Reference STATE OF THE ART Stan Augarten

ISBN 0-89919-195-9

Photo of
One of the Most Popular 65,536-Bit (64K) Dynamic RAMs
The TMS 4164


Ever since the birth of the semiconductor industry, American chip-makers have enjoyed a large lead over their foreign competitors. But Japanese electronic firms have been making a concerted effort to narrow the gap, aided in part by low-interest government loans, generous research grants, and lenient antimonopoly laws. Their campaign has begun to pay off. In 1981, Japanese companies - chiefly multibillion-dollar outfits like Hitachi, Fujitsu, and Nippon Electric - garnered some 33 percent of all international chip sales, compared to 27 percent in 1980 and not far behind the American share of 43 percent.

  A significant part of the battle for international supremacy is being waged over the 64K RAM, seen in extreme close-up on the right. It is one of the most desired products on the market, with four times the memory capacity of the 16K RAM, until recently the industry standard. The 64K RAM was introduced in 1979, first by the Japanese and then by Americans; in the beginning, sales of the chip were modest, with no more than 36,000 being sold worldwide. But sales of the 64K RAM rocketed to some thirteen million in 1981, and the Japanese captured 70 percent of the market.

  The huge success of the Japanese results in part from their having cut prices early in competition, in part from their reputation for quality. In 1981, they slashed the cost of 64K RAMs from some $25 each to about $5, and the price hovered at that level throughout the following year. Although the biggest American IC-makers - Texas Instruments and Motorola - can afford to match that price, the smaller firms, like Intel and National Semiconductor, have had a tough time of it.

Resembling a high-tech beehive, the TMS 4164, seen here in close-up, is one of the most popular American versions of the 64K RAM. A bit can be written into or read out of this chip in 120 billionths of a second. The chip's full size is 0.138 x 0.261 inches; the section depicted here shows a third of the chip. Photo of


©Copyright Stan Augarten
This book is provided for general reference. The National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution make no claims as to the accuracy or completeness of this work.

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