IBM demonstrates world's first 1000 MHz microprocessor

New technology to enable high-performance chips

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Austin, Texas - 05 Feb 1998: - Engineers at IBM Research today said they have demonstrated the world's first experimental CMOS microprocessor that can operate at one billion cycles per second (1000 MHz or 1 GHz). Today's fastest processors typically operate at speeds less than 300 MHz.

The processor was designed at IBM's Austin Research Lab, which was established in 1995 to focus on advanced circuit design, as well as new design techniques and tools for high performance microprocessors.

"With this demonstration, we believe it is possible to design 1000 MHz products," said Mark Dean, IBM Fellow and director of the Austin Research Lab. "Equally significant is the fact that we've developed the tools and insight that will be necessary to push this technology to even greater performance levels."

Designed by a highly focused team of 15 engineers, the processor achieves clock speeds of up to 1100 MHz. The 1000 MHz chip contains one million transistors and was developed using IBM's existing 0.25-micron CMOS 6X technology. The microarchitecture, circuits and testing techniques resulting from this project will eventually be applied to microprocessors using IBM's recently introduced CMOS 7S "copper chip" technology.

Novel Architecture and Circuit Design "Circuit and architecture innovations, including the merging of some functions and performing others in parallel, enabled us to reach the 1000 MHz milestone quickly and efficiently," said Sang Dhong, the Austin-based IBM engineer who led the development effort.

Among the team's achievements were:

The 1000 MHz chips were fabricated at IBM's Advanced Semiconductor Technology Center in East Fishkill, NY and tested at the T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY.

A paper detailing the achievement will be presented February 6 at the annual IEEE International Solid State Circuit Conference in San Francisco. IBM is also presenting two related microprocessor papers at the conference. One describes a commercial multi-threaded RISC processor demonstrating IBM's ability to use innovative microarchitecture technology in a commercial application. The other describes IBM's first use of copper technology on a product level design with the PowerPC 750 microprocessor.

IBM Research is staffed by approximately 2,800 researchers working at laboratories in the United States, Switzerland, Japan, Israel and China. Major areas of research include computer systems, applications and solutions, systems technology, physical sciences, mathematical sciences, storage and communications.

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