science & technology technology

Revolutionise computer memory – New Scientist

So where is the technology that can store our high-definition home cinema collection on a single chip? Or every book we would ever want to read or refer to? Flash can’t do that. In labs across the world, though, an impressive array of technologies is lining up that could make such dreams achievable.

via Five ways to revolutionise computer memory – tech – 07 December 2009 – New Scientist.

Memory Chips on the decrease
RAM memory used to reign supreme in Dual Inline Packages (DIPS)

I used to follow news stories on new computer memory technology on the website. I didn’t always understand all the terms and technologies, but I did want to know what might be coming on the market in a couples of years. Magnetic RAM seemed like a game changer as did Ferro-Electric RAM. Both of them like Flash could hold their contents without the computer being turned on. And in some ways they were superior to Flash in that they read/write cycle didn’t destroy the memory over time. Flash is known to have a useful fixed lifespan before it wears out. According to the postscript in this article at New Scientist flash memory can sustain between 10,000 and 100,000 read/write cycles before it fails. Despite this, flash memory doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, and begs the question where are my MRAMs and FeRAM chips?

Maybe my faith in MRAM or Magnetic RAM was misplaced. I had great hopes for it exactly because so much time had been spent working on it. Looks like they couldn’t break the 32MB barrier in terms of the effective density of the MRAM chips themselves. And FeRAM is also stuck at 128MB effectively for similar reasons. It’s very difficult to contain or restrict the area over which the magnetism acts on the bits running through the wires on the chip. It’s all about too much crosstalk on the wires.

This article mentions something called Racetrack Memory. And what about Racetrack Memory so called RRAM? It reminds me a lot of what I read about the old Sperry Univac computers that used Mercury Delay Lines to store 512bits at a time. Only now instead of acoustic waves, it’s storing actual electrons and reading them in series as needed. Cool stuff, and if I had to vote for which one is going to win, obviously Phase Change and Racetrack look like good prospects right now. I hope both of them see the light of day real soon now.

computers science & technology technology

Toshiba Announces World’s Largest SD Card – Gadgetwise Blog –

SDXC is yet another memory format all manufacturers will have to adopt. Isn’t it frightening how much the removable memory market has fractured into mico-formats for memory cards. About a week ago I was playing with an Olympus voice recorder at work. It had it’s own funny shaped memory cards you had to buy from Olympus if you wanted to increase the storage size. One positive thing I will say though is this. SDHC at least has consolidated some of the mindshare around a commonly supported form factor for removable storage. Compact Flash once enjoyed a similar amount of support. But nowadays you cannot even find a laptop with CardBus slots anymore. Many add-ons for laptops are installed on internal PCIe busses now.

I hope all the device manufacturers get onboard with the SDXC format only because of the limits on the FileSystem on these cards has needed to adapt to the vagaries of long form video shooting. I remember the painful days of 4GB file size limits for video. That took a long time to dissapate on the desktop computer. It’s high time it disappeared on digital video cameras as well.

Toshiba says all three new cards will bring a maximum write speed of 35 megabytes per second and a read speed of 60 megabytes per second. For videophiles, the new SDXC format will enable video files to extend beyond the current limit of 4 gigabytes.

via Toshiba Announces World’s Largest SD Card – Gadgetwise Blog –

science & technology technology

Toshiba 3D flash chip

Toshiba currently bonds several traditional flash chips into a multi-chip stacked package. The Apple iPhone 3GS is an example of one manufacturer using this seemingly cutting edge technology. In one chip Toshiba has achieved 32GBytes of storage. But size is always a consideration for portable devices like cell phones. So how do you continue increasing the storage without making the chip too thick?

Enter the nirvana of 3D CMOS manufacturing. SanDisk and Toshiba both have aquired companies who dabbled in the 3D chip area. And I’m not talking multi-chip modules, stacked on on top of  another in a really thin profile. These would be laid down one metallic layer at a time in the manufacture process, achieving the thinnest profile theoretically possible. So if you are like me and amazed that 32GBytes of Flash can fit in one chip, just wait. The densities are going to improve even more. But it’s going to be a few years into the future. Three years of development and research is going to be needed to make the 3D Flash chip a manufacturable product.

The basic idea is to stack layers of flash memory atop one another to build a higher capacity chip more cheaply than by integrating the same number of cells into a single layer chip. The stacked chip would also occupy a smaller area than a single layer chip with the same capacity.

via Toshiba hopes for 3D flash chip within three years • The Register.

computers technology

Super capacitors in the news

I first read about supercapacitors (Ars Technica-2007) some time back when gas prices were starting to reach an all time high. The Summer of 2008 everyone wanted to own a battery powered car, or hybrid drive car. Many writers were speculating then about the car of the future. All the hype surround hydrogen fuel cells was proven to be premature. But Tesla Motors was showing off what you could do with off the shelf Lithium ion batteries. And there were some announcements of new materials being used to create a possible adjunct to the Lithium ion cells. It was called a Super capactior.

In the time since Ars Technica wrote the article about supercapcitors, Zenn has created a car using the EEStor supercapacitor technology

EEstor Cell
EEstor Cell

In the rest of the high tech manufacturing world the electronics industry has recently adopted the supercapacitor as well. Why? Well, as this article from the Register states, more restrictions are being placed on Lithium ion batteries after some unfortunate accidents were splashed in picture form all over the Internet. But more than that, replacing failed lithium ion batteries on disk controllers is very inconvenient when you are a customer at a Lights Out style data center. In expensive flash memory has been around for a while now. And I have wondered when disk controller manufacturers might start using it for the high end disk controllers. Enter the Adaptec RAID controller with super capacitor backed Flash memory. This device should handle any amount of power outages and still keep all your disk writes from being corrupted. And the recharge cycle rate with a supercapacitors is much faster than any battery technology currently manufactured. So after full power is recovered, the recharge cycle is short enough to get full safety almost immediately.

Adaptec has done away with the need for battery back-up of its RAID controller cards by changing to a NAND flash cache and capacitor set up.

via Adaptec adds NAND cache to RAID cards • The Register.

computers science & technology technology

Intel to double SSD capacity • The Register

Things are really beginning to heat up now that Toshiba and Samsung are making moves to market new SSD products. Intel is also revising it’s product line by trying to move it’s SSDs to the high end process technology at the 32nm design rule. Moving from 50nm to 32nm is going to increase densities, but most likely costs will stay high as usual for all Intel based product offerings. Nobody wants SSDs to suddenly become a commodity product. Not yet.

Intel is expected to bring forward the projected doubling of its SSD capacities to as early as next month.

The current X18-M and X25-M solid state drives (SSDs) use a 50nm process and have 80GB and 160GB capacities with 2-bit multi-level cell (MLC) technology. A single level cell (SLC) X25-E has faster I/O rates and comes in 32GB and 64GB capacities.

via Intel to double SSD capacity • The Register.

computers technology wintel

Intel ready to launch new 34nm SSDs?

Check back in two weeks from today

via Electronista | Intel ready to launch new 34nm SSDs in two weeks?.

computers technology

iPhone ships w/Toshiba 32GB flash memory

Going back a few weeks I dug up this article about Toshiba’s groundbreaking 32nm/32GB stacked flash memory module.

32GB Flash Memory

Toshiba on Monday revealed that it has started shipping its 32 nanometer NAND flash memory ahead of schedule. Originally planned for the fall, the higher-density storage is already being sampled today and should be in mass production by July. The process allows a single, thin 32-gigabit (4GB) chip and, with eight stacked chips, will allow 32GB of memory in a single package.

via Electronista | Toshiba ships 32nm, 32GB flash memory early.

At the time it was not announced what manufacturers were going to use the new chip. Some speculators were thinking Apple might be using it in their top of the line 32GB iPhone 3GS. And according to all the teardown accounts iFixit & Rapid Repair, the Toshiba chip is front and center on the top of the line model.

iPhone 3GS ships w/Toshiba chip
iPhone 3GS ships w/Toshiba chip

I think its great when innovations like this can make into shipping products immediately. While the cost is prohibitive for many, you can rest assured you are getting the cutting edge, the bleeding edge of technology when you buy Apple products. Why I even remember when the first video iPods with 30GB Hard drives came out. Nobody thought you would ever need that amount of space for all your music, so Apple introduced video as another reason to buy an iPod. Now we have 32GB available on the iPhone. It just gets better and better since Oct. of 2005 when that first 30GB ipod was reviewed.