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A Flash Memory That Doubles as DRAM

Engineers work to combine volatile and nonvolatile memory into one flash device

4 min read

3 March 2011—Engineers at North Carolina State University (NCSU) have refurbished flash memory in an attempt to create something new: a "unified memory" type that can be fast but volatile, like the memory workhorse dynamic RAM, or slow but nonvolatile, like the flash storage in MP3 players. At this point, the team has simulated only one memory cell’s behavior and made a proof-of-concept prototype, but they believe that their design may lead to instant-on computers and power savings in today’s behemoth data centers.

Of course, IEEE Spectrum readers have heard such memory claims before. More exotic memory technologies— resistive, phase change, even spintronic devices—are also contenders for the guts of imagined instant-on machines. The new flash’s advantage, says one of the NCSU designers, Daniel Schinke, is that it’s less adventurous: "Our device is also new, but the technology behind it is very mature."

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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