On Monday, months ahead of schedule and six years after Intel broke the 100 megahertz mark with great fanfare, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) announced the release of the first one-gigahertz personal computer microprocessor. Although it had not planned to do so until the second half of this year, Intel responded to the challenge by releasing its own one-gigahertz Pentium III processor. These new chips offer roughly twice as much (or more) processing power as those currently in the average home computer. While users may not notice the difference when performing ordinary tasks, those working in graphics or other processor-intensive applications will certainly find the new chips a marked improvement. A few computer makers, including Gateway and Compaq, are already offering pcs with the new chip, and they expect to begin shipping them by the end of the month. Most users, though, will feel the effect of these new releases in the form of lower prices on older chips, even those just introduced a few months ago. With no real physical limitation to processor speed and Moore's Law that processing power doubles every eighteen months, we can only expect the continued introduction of faster and more powerful high-end processors and a corresponding price drop for older models. AMD, in fact, has already revealed a prototype of a new 1.1-GHz chip code.
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