December 16, 1996 10 AM ET

New Intel memory to improve video
By Lisa DiCarlo

  Intel Corp. is steering a sea change in desktop PC architecture and performance by co-developing a new memory type for forthcoming digital videodisk, three-dimensional and video applications.

Intel has licensed RDRAM (Rambus dynamic RAM) designs from Rambus Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., and will co-develop a new memory type, called nDRAM, officials said.

nDRAM, still in the definition stage, will feature a 100MHz-plus clock speed and a wider interface than the current 8-bit standard, and will require a new motherboard and core logic design. The memory is expected to be available on PCs in 1999.

Citing such memory-hungry applications as the drivers for the next rush of PC sales, Intel believes it must lead the charge to a new memory architecture that can accommodate the software.

"The evolutionary path [for DRAM] has run its course," said Dennis Lenehan, director of memory industry enabling at Intel, in Santa Clara, Calif. "This is the point at which we make a fundamental technological change, because we're hitting a stone wall by trying to extend the life of SDRAM [synchronous dynamic RAM]."

Intel does not plan to release further technical details until late 1997, but the technology will allow more data throughput over a fewer number of pin connectors, officials said.

The memory will replace today's highest-performance main memory, SDRAM. Although it will proliferate in 1997 and 1998, SDRAM will not be viable for robust applications long-term, due to limitations inherent to their maximum 100MHz speed, Lenehan said.

Most of today's SDRAM memory runs at 66MHz and will speed up to 100MHz next year. But extending beyond 100MHz will risk compatibility with current dual inline memory module sockets and will increase system costs, Lenehan said.

He said the high-performance memory will probably first surface on more costly PCs and workstations, migrating down to lower-cost PCs.

Most of the world's largest memory makers currently produce Rambus' RDRAM processors, and most will make nDRAM, including Mitsubishi Electronics Inc., Samsung Semiconductor Inc. and NEC Electronics Inc.

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