LAS VEGAS, NOV. 14 -- Gilbert Hyatt, the engineer who was granted a patent last summer for the computer microprocessor after a 20-year battle, says he's done it again.
Hyatt announced today at the Comdex Computer Show that he recently received a patent for a technology that triples the speed of one of the most widely used types of computer chips. Hyatt said his modification of dynamic random access memory chips, or DRAMs, eliminates unnecessary operations in the chips to achieve the greater speed.
DRAMs are among the most common types of computer chips, used in products ranging from personal computers to printers to some home electronics equipment. They temporarily store bits of data that are needed to perform various operations. By speeding them up, computers could perform calculations more quickly. That's because the speed of microprocessors, the "brains" of personal computers, has outpaced the ability of DRAMs to feed them data.
Hyatt said he plans to license the technology to the computer industry, much like he is seeking licenses for his 1968 invention of the microprocessor.
One industry analyst, Millard Phelps of the San Francisco brokerage Hambrecht & Quist, said Hyatt's latest invention could be a major advance -- provided his chips don't have too many drawbacks.
"It sure makes you wonder what is the trade-off," Phelps said.
Hyatt, however, said he achieved the speedup without sacrificing any other characteristics of the chips. He said he uses off-the-shelf DRAMs in his technique.
Hyatt, who lives in La Palma, Calif., fought with the U.S. Patent Office and major computer chipmakers until he was granted his microprocessor patent in July. The patent award called into question the computer industry's "official" history, which says the microprocessor was invented by several Intel Corp. scientists.
Hyatt declined to specify the amount of royalties he was seeking on the microprocessor patent, calling them "significant." Industry analysts estimate he could get several million dollars a year from major microprocessor makers.