Electronic Design

Molecular Digital Computer In Design At Westinghouse

A miniature digital computer that would use functional blocks is reportedly under development at Westinghouse Electric Corp.'s Air Arm Div., Baltimore. To be ready for testing in about 18 months, the computer is planned to have an expandable random-access memory of 16,000 bits. It would weigh 14 lb with a volume of 0.265 cu ft, and be capable of about 50,000 operations per sec.

Called Mol-E-Com, the computer would be used in guidance systems, radar processing, fire control, and similar applications. The company reports that its main advantage would be its high reliability, despite the 10-to-1 size reduction it would make possible.

The basic unit of the computer would be functional blocks of silicon, which would be mounted and interconnected in standard units about 3/4 in. sq. and approximately 1/64 in. thick, and each containing four or more functional blocks. The basic units would be stacked in modules, which would be packed together to provide all the switching, amplification, and logic functions required.

In a separate announcement, the company reported that it has formed a semiconductor molecular electronics department to develop, manufacture, and market molecular electronic functional blocks. The new department is headed by F.M. Heddinger, former assistant to the general manager of the company's semiconductor department. (Electronic Design, June 21, 1961, p. 14)

The details here are a little sketchy, but clearly Westinghouse was, along with Texas Instruments and Fairchild, one of the early innovators in integrated circuits, which Westinghouse initially called "molecular" electronics. The company's semiconductor operations grew to be a major force in discrete power devices, but it eventually dropped out of the business in the mid-1990s.

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