U.S. chip market may surpass Japan'sConvinced that...


U.S. chip market may surpass Japan's

Convinced that the U.S. has lost its technological edge to Japan? If so, here's a fact to ponder: For the first time since 1985, the semiconductor market here is expected to be greater than Japan's.

According to a report issued last week by Texas Instruments Inc., the U.S. market should charge ahead by 25 percent this year, to $23 billion.

Japan's chip market, on the other hand, is likely to be just over $20 billion, inching back after a decline last year.

All told, Texas Instruments says, the global semiconductor market is expected to grow 17 percent, to $70 billion, this year, up from $59.9 billion in 1992.

Strong demand for chip-based products, including computers and computer electronics, was cited as the driving force behind projected 28 percent annual growth, the world's fastest, in the Asia/Pacific region.

Japanese companies develop DRAM chips

NEC Corp. and Hitachi Ltd. both say that they have prototypes of 256-megabit dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) chips, and that mass production may be as little as three years away.

A 256-megabit chip could hold about 12,000 single-spaced pages worth of text. Yet because the internal components are so small, some versions will consume less electricity than the 1-megabit or 4-megabit chips commonly used in today's personal computers.

NEC expects to begin full production of its 64-megabit chips sometimes next year.

Another Japanese chipmaker, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., said last week that it has developed the fastest DRAM chip yet.

The new chip can access data in 20 nanoseconds, or billionths of a second, eclipsing the previous record of 57 nanoseconds, Matsushita said.

Faster memory chips become increasingly important as makers of microprocessors boost the base speed of computers. Without fast memory, processors can wind up "loafing" until the data they need becomes available.

Martin gets contract for computer services

Bethesda-based Martin Marietta Corp. said last week that it has won a five-year contract worth about $10 million to provide computer services to JP Foodservice of Hanover.

Martin's Information Services unit, headquartered in Orlando, Fla., will perform the work, which includes operational support and upgrades of IBM-based systems at JP's headquarters and 15 additional locations.

JP Foodservice, a private food distribution company, has gross annual sales of $1.2 billion.

Martin Marietta also said last week that it received a $31 million contract for computer services from Infonet, an El Segundo, Calif., operator of data communications networks.

Working at VDTs can prove hypnotic

Are you hypnotized by your computer screen? Some Japanese researchers, seeking to explain eyestrain among computer users, have found that while relaxed volunteers blinked 22 times per minute and people reading a book at table level blinked 10 times per minute, subjects reading text on a VDT blinked only 7 times per minute.

They also found that while the book readers had 0.18 square inches of their eyes exposed, VDT users had their eyes wide open, exposing 0.35 square inches. That brought dryness and irritation.

They recommended placing a video display terminal as low as possible and pointing it upward, and using eye drops known as artificial tears.

Advocates seek privacy in cellular phone use

The cellular telephone industry's advocates are fighting to reduce the odds of cellular calls being picked up by eavesdroppers.

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association submitted comments last week backing a proposed ban on making or importing scanners that receive, or can be "readily altered" to receive, cellular frequencies, or that can convert digital cellular signals.

In comments to the Federal Communications Commission, the CTIA said any blocking of frequencies should occur within the scanner's main microprocessor, which it said should be difficult to replace.

Software assists dividend reinvestment

Evergreen Enterprises of Laurel says that next month it will release a new version of its Dividend Reinvestment Plan Portfolio Tracker software for PCs.

The program is designed to assist long-term investors in reinvestment plans, who must store years of statements to keep track of the many transactions involved in buying stock that way.

Evergreen's primary business is publishing a Directory of Companies Offering Dividend Reinvestment Plans.

25 million calls made on GTE Airfone

GTE Airfone says that 25 million inflight phone calls have been made since its service begin in 1984, and the company holds out the prospect of greater things to come.

The GTE Corp. subsidiary says that later this year it will introduce its GenStar digital service, which will let passengers make calls with personal computers and fax machines.

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