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A New Twist on Memristance

NIST researchers create flexible memory circuits that act like memristors

3 min read

10 June 2009—Researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in Gaithersburg, Md., report in the July 2009 issue of IEEE Electron Device Letters that they have created a low-power, inexpensive flexible memory that has the properties of a memristor. Memristors can be used to make brainlike circuits and nanoelectronic memories, because they ”remember” the amount of current that has flowed through them, and that memory is reflected in the device’s resistance.

Though these devices were first theorized in 1971, no one was able to make a practical memristor until Hewlett-Packard figured out how to do it in 2008. Producing a flexible form of memristor could make a fourth fundamental circuit element usable in implantable medical electronics where stiff, brittle silicon wouldn’t work, says Curt A. Richter, head of the Nanoelectronic Device Metrology Project at NIST’s Semiconductor Electronics Division.

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The First Million-Transistor Chip: the Engineers’ Story

Intel’s i860 RISC chip was a graphics powerhouse

21 min read
Twenty people crowd into a cubicle, the man in the center seated holding a silicon wafer full of chips

Intel's million-transistor chip development team

In San Francisco on Feb. 27, 1989, Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., startled the world of high technology by presenting the first ever 1-million-transistor microprocessor, which was also the company’s first such chip to use a reduced instruction set.

The number of transistors alone marks a huge leap upward: Intel’s previous microprocessor, the 80386, has only 275,000 of them. But this long-deferred move into the booming market in reduced-instruction-set computing (RISC) was more of a shock, in part because it broke with Intel’s tradition of compatibility with earlier processors—and not least because after three well-guarded years in development the chip came as a complete surprise. Now designated the i860, it entered development in 1986 about the same time as the 80486, the yet-to-be-introduced successor to Intel’s highly regarded 80286 and 80386. The two chips have about the same area and use the same 1-micrometer CMOS technology then under development at the company’s systems production and manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, Ore. But with the i860, then code-named the N10, the company planned a revolution.

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