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A New Phase in Nonvolatile Memory?

A possible successor to flash emerges from the shadows

4 min read

The first successful rewritable nonvolatile memory, flash, is a mainstay in numerous devices that require data to be retained when the equipment is switched off: cellphones, digital cameras, and PDAs. Flash chips represent a big market--US $15 billion to $17 billion.

Flash doesn't do well, however, at writing very large quantities of data quickly. It also begins to leak charge after several hundred thousand cycles, making it unsuitable for devices like a computer's main memory in which data are constantly rewritten. So it's not surprising that a lot of technologies are vying to be the premier next-generation nonvolatile memory, including polymer ferroelectric memories, magnetic RAM, and nanowires. But by a growing expert consensus, the most likely candidate to succeed flash memories is a technology based on phase-change materials.

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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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