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For computer chip builders, only one way to go: Up--video extra

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — In the race to build a faster computer chip, there is literally nowhere to go but up. Today's chip surfaces are packed with the tiniest electronic switches the laws of physics allow, but Intel Corp. says it is blowing past those limits with a breakthrough, three-dimensional transistor design it revealed Wednesday.

Analysts call it one of the most significant developments in silicon transistor design since the integrated circuit was invented in the 1950s. It opens the way for faster smartphones, lighter laptops and a new generation of supercomputers — and possibly for powerful new products engineers have yet to dream up.

Minuscule fins jutting from the surface of the typically flat transistors improve performance without adding size, just as skyscrapers make the most of a small square of land.

"When I looked at it, I did a big, 'Wow,'" said Dan Hutcheson, a longtime semiconductor industry watcher and CEO of VLSI Research Inc. "What we've seen for decades now have been evolutionary changes to the technology. This is definitely a revolutionary change."

Intel CEO Paul Otellini said that "amazing, world-shaping devices" will be created using the new technology.


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