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NRAM -- the new

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DQW Bureau
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Gigabit RAM chips are more than a breezy promise from Nantero, Inc., based on their press release, which was brought to our attention by reader Kenneth LaCrosse. It describes that Nantero had created an array of ten billion suspended nanotube junctions on a single silicon wafer. (Note the ‘past’ tense.)

Each junction is able to remain in an ‘up’ (zero) or ‘down’ (one) position, without any power needed to retain its state (it is ‘nonvolatile memory’, like Flash memory or a disk drive). Because the nanotubes are so tiny and weigh so little, they can be switched very quickly with very little power.

That's a claim for a ten-gigabit memory chip, although I did notice that Nantero's Web site doesn't talk specs, or actually say that they have an operating memory chip, but that they've created the array (actually a ‘fabric’ of many redundant carbon

nanotubes.)

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According to that press release, "Nantero is currently developing NRAM—a high-density nonvolatile random access memory chip using nanotechnology. The company expects to deliver a product that will replace all existing forms of memory, such as DRAM, SRAM and flash memory, with a high-density nonvolatile RAM — ‘universal memory.’

The potential applications for the nonvolatile RAM Nantero is developing add up to over $100B in revenue potential, including the ability to enable instant-on computers and to replace flash memory in devices such as MP3 players, digital cameras, and PDAs, as well as applications in the networking arena."

And Nantero indicates that this can be scaled up to make even larger memory chips.

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But a newer, June 3 article in New Scientist, suggests that this ‘gigabit NRAM chip’ is the theoretical POTENTIAL for such a chip, rather than the current reality. There, Nantero CEO Greg Schmergel is expecting, "...to have NRAM memory capable of storing up to four megabits in 18 months and components that could compete with current types of RAM in around three years."

Suppose...



While Nantero sorts out, what they're telling the public (perhaps in deference to their patent applications), just SUPPOSE that they (or someone else, or via a different technology) pulls this off!

Could we end up with solid state memory denser and less expensive than our familiar rotating disk drives, thereby quickly melting the historic differentiation between ‘memory’ and ‘storage’? (And consequently bringing about the death knell for the disk drive industry?) Could our PDAs and cell phones and other electronic gadgets (GPS), have the amounts of storage that we associate with desktop PCs today? Will the idea of ‘booting’ a system fade into antiquity, as systems with nothing but non-volatile memory spring back to life in exactly the same running state they were in when the power switch was last moved to OFF?

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It may or may not happen this time, in this way, by these folks. But look at history -- I have little doubt that it will.

So,Don't Blink!

Jeffrey R. Harrow

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