New Technologies Throw Computer Industry into Turmoil

By Markoff, John | THE JOURNAL RECORD, January 1, 1993 | Go to article overview

New Technologies Throw Computer Industry into Turmoil


Markoff, John, THE JOURNAL RECORD


By John Markoff

N.Y. Times News Service

From pentops to massively parallel processors, the computer industry is ending 1992 in turmoil.

No single detail better illustrates the new economic realities of computing than this simple fact: The handful of microchips powering the refrigerator-size, million-dollar KSR-1 supercomputer that Kendall Square Research introduced this year are made in the same Sharp Electronics chip assembly line as the microchips that go into each of Sharp's $500 Wizard pocket organizers.

And it won't be long before the most powerful chips will go into the cheapest consumer electronics products first _ a stark contrast to the industry's past practice of introducing the best chips in high-end computers and letting them only gradually trickle down to mass-market devices.

It will be the low-cost consumer applications that will propel the most powerful computers into the marketplace because only mass-market opportunities will generate the development money required for these machines. Whereas supercomputers were once affordable only by the largest government laboratories, universities or corporations, supercomputing applications in the future will come first in desktop and even palmtop devices that can be produced and sold by the millions.

No wonder computing's old guard, from International Business Machines Corp. to Digital Equipment Corp., is under siege. Those companies, long reliant on big machines for big corporate customers, had their largest losses ever this year. And between buyouts and layoffs, the nation's two leading computer makers shed more than 60,000 workers.

But while the old guard stumbled, the vanguard _ including Intel, the chip maker; Microsoft Corp. …

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