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Discusses how unheralded efforts in the United States, mainly in universities, have removed major stumbling blocks to building cost-effective superfast computers for scientific and engineering applications within five years. These computers would have sustained speeds of billions of floating-point operations per second (flops), whereas with the fastest machines today the top sustained speed is only 25 million flops, with bursts to 160 megaflops. Cost-effective superfast machines can be built because of advances in very large-scale integration and the special software needed to program the new machines. VLSI greatly reduces the `cost per unit of computing power'. The development of such computers would come at an opportune time. Although the US leads the world in large-scale computer technology, its supremacy is now threatened, not surprisingly, by the Japanese. Publicized reports indicate that the Japanese government is funding a cooperative effort by commercial computer manufacturers to develop superfast computers-about 1000 times faster than modern supercomputers. The US computer industry, by contrast, has balked at attempting to boost computer power so sharply because of the uncertain market for the machines and the failure of similar projects in the past to show significant results.