Computer chip is now a work of...

Computer chip is now a work of art

If Andy Warhol can make art out of Campbell's soup cans, why can't Intel Corp. make art out of microchips?


Answer: It can.

And already has. Intel and other major computer makers, including International Business Machines Corp., Hewlett-Packard Corp. and American Telephone & Telegraph Co., have computer chip diagrams -- in poster-sized blowups -- ++ on display at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington. The exhibit, the first to examine the computer chip as a work of art, includes 31 computer-generated diagrams of 22 microcircuits. Each diagram is accompanied by a technical description, along with the actual chip.


Computer chips control the way information is processed by computers. Some contain up to 7 million components, all of it much too small for the human eye to decipher.

The National Academy of Sciences is at 2101 Constitution Ave. N.W. The telephone number is (202) 334-2436.

It's not how much you make. It's what you keep that counts.

And in parts of Maryland, high-tech companies are making more -- but keeping less.

That's one finding of the second annual Survey of High Technology Firms in Suburban Maryland, conducted by the Greater Washington Research Center. The survey, released last month, found that 1991 revenues of high-tech firms in Montgomery, Prince George's and Frederick counties rose an average of $9.6 million per firm last year. Two-thirds of respondents -- 115 firms -- said revenues jumped $1 million to $10 million in 1991, with two reporting eye-popping gains of over $100 million each.

Profits, however, were another matter entirely.

About 60 percent of respondents said profits either stayed the same or decreased in 1991, with four firms reporting losses. The remaining 40 percent reported profit increases.

Despite the profit picture, the survey found that firms are continuing to invest in research and development, produce new products and add employees. Additionally, 46 percent of respondents said they plan to expand in the future in Maryland. The survey found only about 3 percent plan to leave the state altogether.


MIPS is accepting grant applications

The University of Maryland's Maryland Industrial Partnership Program (MIPS) is accepting applications for matching grants from anyone who has a scientific or technical idea that could help stimulate industry growth in Maryland.

To apply, companies must first team with a university faculty member. Together, the two apply to MIPS for a research grant, which can reach $210,000. MIPS accepts proposals twice a year. The deadline for the next round is Oct. 23. For more information, call the MIPS office at 301-405-3891.

DOT is developing 'smart' bumper car

To help ease the nation's growing gridlock problem, the Department of Transportation is spending millions of dollars to develop what amounts to a high-speed bumper car.

DOT doesn't expect to have a highway-ready vehicle system in place for at least another 20 years. The expectation is that automated cars would supplement, not replace, regular people-driven vehicles.


Unlike the kid's version, the department's "smart" bumper cars have computerized navigational systems.

These high-speed cars could also help ease congestion on the highways. Automated cars could hum along at normal highway speeds three or four feet apart, greatly increasing the number of vehicles that could fit on the road.

If something went wrong, there might be a great domino effect, but injuries would tend not to be serious because of the small distance between the cars. That's the same reason there are more pileups than fatal accidents in high-speed car races.

Because extra steering room wouldn't be needed, existing highways might be able to accommodate an extra lane or two, said Maris Juberts, group leader of systems integration for the intelligent vehicles division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

An unmanned truck with a computer-controlled navigational system developed by NIST was recently demonstrated for visitors at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. The robotic "high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle," the successor to the Army vehicle popularity known as the "humvee," performed various navigational feats for visitors at speeds of up to 45 mph.

The secret, according to Mr. Juberts, is in the software. On-board computers take in visual data -- coloration of lane markings -- and guide the vehicle.