Mitsubishi Electric Corp claims to have built Japan’s first neural computer to use optical signal processing elements. Neural computers set out to mimic the workings of vertebrate nervous systems, and are expected to find wide application in areas like pattern recognition, word recognition and inferential tasks. Optical computing is also in its infancy, but promises advantages in speed and in the fact that two light signals can pass through the same junction without interfering with each other, greatly reducing the isolation problems inherent in electronic circuits. Mitsubishi’s experimental computer consists of a row of 32 laser diodes with 1,024 interconnections between them, thus mimicing the working of 32 neurones with 1,024 synaptic connections; the synapses fire in 10nS. By comparison, the human brain is estimated to have 14,000m neurons, each with 1,000 synapses. The Mitsubishi machine is claimed to have recognised the letters A, J and E correctly 86% of the time. The company acknowledges that researchers at California Institute of Technology have already built an optical neural computer. Meanwhile in the UK, Mitsubishi Semiconductors yesterday announced a new high reliablility family of single or double sided memory cards arranged as 8-bit or 16-bit words with RAM or ROM capacities of 128Kb, 256Kb and 512Kb. The cards are the width and length of a standard credit card and 3.4mm thick. It sees the things being used in language stores for electronic dictionaries through to data storage for personal computers, perhaps eventually replacing the floppy disk. It also previewed a family of embedded microprocessor Smart Cards.