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This paper presents a review of experiments performed by IBM to investigate the causes of soft errors in semiconductor memory chips under field test conditions. The effects of alpha-particles and cosmic rays are separated by comparing multiple measurements of the soft-error rate (SER) of samples of memory chips deep underground and at various altitudes above the earth. The results of case studies on four different memory chips show that cosmic rays are an important source of the ionizing radiation that causes soft errors. The results of field testing are used to confirm the accuracy of the modeling and the accelerated testing of chips.
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