IBM Research

The Chip Innovation of ’97 that Spurred Even Greater Scale & Speed

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Twenty years ago, after riding high on a microprocessor architecture that launched and sustained the PC revolution, the industry faced considerable new hurdles – specifically with the microchip’s speed and scale. Any company that manufactured a device with a chip inside of it needed something new to help them keep up with the incredible demand for increasingly better electronics.

That’s when IBM’s Semiconductor R&D Center stepped in. In 1997 the group announced it had developed a way to replace the aluminum wires that connected the transistors and various parts of the computer chips of the day, with copper. Copper, conducts electricity significantly better than aluminum, and also handles higher current densities. For perspective, in 1997, laptop computers topped out at 233MHz speeds, and IBM’s Deep Blue was exploring a mere 200 million possible chess positions per second. Without the copper wire chip innovation, our computers and devices would not have advanced much beyond the speed and power of two decades ago.

Read the full fascinating story on the IBM Research blog.

 


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