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One of the most tantalizing frontiers in computers is engineering circuits on the nanometer scale, the millionth of a millimeter measure on a par with individual atoms. Scientists at IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory pioneered this field when they invented a device called the scanning tunnelling microscope, or STM, that could image some types of individual atoms on electrically conducting surfaces. For this, the inventors won a Nobel Prize. A few years later, scientists at IBM's Almaden Research Center in California used an STM to move and precisely position individual atoms for the first time.

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