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Single Chip Could Take the Bite Out of PC Prices

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RALEIGH — Prices for personal computers are dropping like a rock. Right now, you can get a powerful PC for less than a thousand bucks. But next year, you may be able to buy one for much less.

National Semiconductor Corporation says it will put an entire personal computer on a single, half inch square chip. OnLine reporter Tom Lawrence has more on the next big leap for computers.

Integrated circuits or silicon chips as we know them, are extremely complex containing millions of transistors on a piece of silicon smaller and thinner than a penny.

The typical PC has several silicon chips on its motherboard in addition to the central processor.

National Semiconductor says it has all the pieces to put the functions of all those chips on one tiny piece of silicon. The PC will become invisible.

"It'll be the PC that's embedded into the flat panel display that hangs on your bedroom wall," says Brian Halla, CEO of National Semiconductor. "It'll be the PC that's embedded into your telephone, the PC that's in the dashboard of your car."

Machines we "compute" with could drop in price to $400. Cards have been around for some time for security. But at some point in the near future, the card will be replaced by your thumb.

Thumbprint security devices could be commonplace and "smart" appliances are on the horizon.

Things like transceivers for telecommunications or graphics drivers for television, high resolution applications and all of that will appear on a chip.

As for holding off buying that new computer... don't. It will serve you several years and the PC on a chip won't be available until late next year at the earliest.

National Semiconductor has bought several companies recently, including the chipmaker, Cyrix. That gives the company the rights to all technology needed to put the components on one chip.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Kerrie Hudzinski, Web Editor

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