IBM and Hitachi Monday announced plans to join forces in an effort to shrink processors.

The companies jointly said they have signed a two-year research agreement. They're trying to speed the pace of developing 32-nanometer (nm) and 22nm devices and processes. According to an IBM release, they'll be focusing on miniaturizing transistors, which is the building block of the processing, acting like a switch.

"By combining individual research strength and intellectual property we reduce the significant costs associated with research needed to advance the next generation of chip technology," said Bernie Meyerson, CTO for IBM's Systems & Technology Group.

Intel Corp. moved from a 65nm manufacturing process to 45nm late last year with the introduction of its Penryn family of chips. With the new process and a new transistor design, Intel was able to fit 820 million transistors onto a single chip.
In comparison, when Intel launched its first microprocessor -- the 4004 -- in 1971, it held a little more than 2,000 transistors.

This past December marked the sixtieth anniversary of the transistor, which some analysts have called the most important invention of the 20th century.
Engineers working on the joint IBM and Hitachi project will conduct their research at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. and at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering's Albany NanoTech Complex.