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Winner: Sun's Big Splash

The Niagara microprocessor chip is Sun's best hope for a comeback

11 min read

The Sunnyvale, Calif., campus of Sun Microsystems Inc. is a quiet and peaceful place with six low-rise buildings connected by tree-lined walkways. But the tranquility masks a frightening reality—Sun is in serious economic trouble. The company was badly splattered by the burst of the dot-com bubble of 2000. Revenues for this once towering colossus of the server industry went south, and its stock plunged from more than US $60 in 2000 to less than $3 in 2002. Recently, the stock has been slowly but steadily climbing, and at press time it was selling at more than $5—a sign that the worst may be over for the company.

But Sun, headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., is still far from its glory days of the last decade. It could use a small miracle to get back solidly on its feet, and at last the company may have one: a new microprocessor chip intended for the volume servers that are the heart of data centers running the information and Web processing for businesses, universities, hospitals, factories, and the like. Sun's engineers have had working chips since last spring and are now heavily into testing and debugging them and making design changes for the next fabrication run in early 2005.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan
LightGreen

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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