Advanced Chip For I.B.M. Unit

By David E. Sanger
The New York Times

Burlington, Vt. -- February 17, 1987 -- The International Business Machines Corporation today became the first personal computer maker to put the vanguard one-megabit memory chip in one of its desktop machines - a precursor of some major technological changes expected in the computer giant's products.

Until now the chips, which store more than one million pieces of data on a tiny slice of silicon, could be found only in advanced mainframe computers and other extremely expensive products. But I.B.M. said today that it was including them in a new version of its RT Personal Computer.

Company officials here, where the megabit chip is made at I.B.M.'s central semiconductor fabrication facility, said the move was part of a broader effort to increase the machine's speed and greatly lower its manufacturing cost. The use of the megabit chip, combined with the consolidation of logic chips, allows the RT Personal Computer to use only one plug-in circuit board, compared with four on the previous model.

Several Improvements Seen

The technology advancements appear to be the first of several in the next few months, as I.B.M. struggles to get out of one of the worst downturns in its history.

In an interview last week, Jack D. Kuehler, I.B.M.'s head of large systems manufacturing and technology development, said that the megabit chip - the most advanced memory chip on the market - would be included in the next generation of standard I.B.M. PC's, expected within the next two months.

And today, Paul P. Castrucci, the plant manager at the Burlington semiconductor operations, said the company had already shipped megabit chips ''in the millions'' to its only customer: I.B.M.'s computer manufacturing plants.

'Memory Barrier' May Fall

Analysts said the introduction of the megabit chip in some of I.B.M.'s least expensive products indicated the PC would undergo important changes. The company seems certain to break the ''memory barrier'' of the five-year-old PC models, which can store no more than 640,000 bytes in their internal memory. That figure is expected to rise to well over 10 megabytes, or 10 million bytes, allowing software developers to produce far more complex programs for the machines.

At least one of the new computers is also expected to run on an Intel 80386 microprocessor, making it a far more powerful machine. Still unclear is what changes I.B.M. will make to the computer's operating system - the software that guides its operations -to enhance its performance and help to ward off the ''clones'' that have severely eroded I.B.M.'s market share.

RT Model Gets a Boost

In its announcement today, I.B.M. said that it had put an improved 32-bit microprocessor in the RT Personal Computer, a machine intended for scientists and others with high-performance needs, that should double or triple its operating speed.

That move appears to be much needed: The RT has sold surprisingly slowly, in part because it is viewed as underpowered when compared with advanced work stations made by companies like Apollo Computer. The RT's slow start has surprised I.B.M. officials, who were depending on it to make the company a major force -for the first time in decades - in the prestigious scientific computing market.

I.B.M. also announced two new software packages for its midrange office computers, whose sales are among the poorest in the company's product line. Edward E. Lucente, the head of I.B.M.'s Information Systems Group, said, ''The packaged series of office solution takes a big step toward realizing the truly comprehensive, integrated office of the future.''

Copyright 1987 The New York Times Company