iAfrica: Japan’s leading liquid crystal display maker Sharp Corp. said on Tuesday it had made an “epoch-making” step toward making ultra-flat “sheet computers” after it succeeded in running a computer on a tiny piece of glass.

The prototype it unveiled was a functioning tiny circuit board – from a Sharp central processing unit (CPU) originally made in 1977 – imprinted on a piece of glass some 15 millimeters (0.6 inches) square and one millimeter thick.

The computing power was only eight bits compared to today’s common 32-bit machines, with a speed of 2.5 megahertz, compared to today’s 2.8 gigahertz which is more than one thousand times more powerful, but it marked a revolution in computing, the company said.

“Putting any CPU onto glass, something that had been impossible up until now, we believe is epoch-making technology,” said Sharp spokesman Tetsuya Igarashi.

The company said its technique would allow other computing devices – such as liquid crystal displays (LCDs), their drivers and power supplies – to be integrated with the same plate of glass, embedded in a silicon membrane.

“This new success based on CG (continuous grain) silicon technology represents the first step on the road toward the development of futuristic ultra-thin ‘sheet computers’ and ‘sheet TVs’,” Sharp said in a statement.

The company aims to turn its technology into a product by 2005, in such things as small mobile TVs, personal digital assistants (PDAs) or other gadgets based on relatively simple computing power.

The discovery was made jointly by Sharp and Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co. Ltd. using continuous grain silicon technology, which conducts electrons 600 times faster than normal silicon and three times faster than low-temperature polysilicon.

The companies said the invention would increase computer stability and cut down on size and parts.

“This achievement is expected to lead to dramatic reductions in component mounting area and the number of external parts, and will also contribute to lighter weights and thinner profiles as well as greater reliability in assembled systems,” it said.