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Intel diagrams 700-MHz technology

Major manufacturing advances in the second half of 1999 will enable Intel to introduce smaller, faster, and less expensive chips.

A major manufacturing advance in the second half of 1999 will enable Intel to introduce smaller, faster, and less expensive chips running as fast as 700 MHz.

Late next year, the company will release two chips made on the 0.18 micron production process, according to a company spokesman. Generally, the smaller the production process, the more transistors can be packed into a chip and the faster it runs. Intel is currently using a "fatter" .25-micron process to produce mobile Pentium chips and Pentium II processors.

The new "Coppermine" will be a chip for desktops and notebooks, while "Cascades" is intended for use in servers and workstations.

Both will include the new Katmai instructions, a technology due earlier next year that will boost multimedia performance, the spokesman added. Katmai is informally known as "MMX 2."

Intel would not reveal the speeds of Coppermine or Cascades, but MicroDesign Resources recently predicted that the chipmaker would introduce the 0.18-micron process in the second half of 1999 along with a series of chips for different markets. A 600-MHz Pentium II for desktops and a 700-MHz Xeon chip for servers and workstations are slated for the second half, the noted industry analysts said prior to today's disclosure.

In addition, Intel will likely release a 366-MHz chip for mobile computers with 256K of high-speed cache memory integrated directly on to the processor.

Despite this spate of activity, Intel will not be the first company to begin shipping 0.18-micron chips. As reported earlier, IBM will release its first 0.18-micron PowerPC microprocessors for commercial consumption later this summer, according to sources close to IBM.

Moreover, these processors will use copper rather than aluminum wires to connect circuits, a change in metals that will in time improve performance. IBM's roadmap also seems to indicate that it will be producing 0.18-micron processors based around the Intel architecture by 1999 or 2000.

Although the exact timing and sequence of these events cannot now be determined, various analysts have pointed out that chips based around new process technologies typically come out first for the notebook markets.

Certainly advances in chip manufacturing have been accelerating. In the past, the shift from one process technology to the next has taken three or more years. Intel began producing chips under the 0.25-micron process in September 1997, or about two years before the first 0.18-micron chips are due.

Manufacturing advances lead to smaller circuitry and smaller chips. In turn, this means processors that are cheaper, because a company can get more chips out of a single wafer, and faster, because closer circuits means less travel time for electrons.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.