A Radical Proposal: Replace Hard Disks With DRAM

DRAM is expensive and volatile. It’s also the future of cloud storage

11 min read
A Radical Proposal: Replace Hard Disks With DRAM
Illustration: Greg Mably

When it comes to computer storage, the magnetic disk has been top dog for almost half a century. The first commercial disks appeared in 1956, and by the early 1970s their cost and capacity had improved to the point where they began to replace magnetic tape as the primary storage medium for computers. By the end of that decade, tapes had been relegated mostly to a backup role. Since then, disk technology has improved at an exponential rate, just like integrated circuits. Nowadays, a typical drive holds 20,000 times as much data as it did in 1985, and on a per-byte basis, disks cost one-millionth of what they did then.

No wonder hard disks are so pervasive. This is also why today’s popular forms of computer storage, such as file systems and relational databases, were designed with disks in mind. Indeed, until recently any information kept on a computer for more than a few seconds probably ended up on disk.

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Print an Arduino-Powered Color Mechanical Television

Anyone with a 3D printer can make a new twist on the oldest type of TV

5 min read
A disk with a spiral of holes is mounted on a motor. Buttons and switches form a control panel below it.

Early 2020s 3D printing meets late 1920s mechanical television.

James Provost

Before flat screens, before even cathode-ray tubes, people watched television programs at home thanks to the Nipkow disk. Ninety years ago in places like England and Germany, broadcasters transmitted to commercially produced black-and-white electromechanical television sets, such as the Baird Televisor, that used these disks to produce moving images. This early programming established many of the formats we take for granted today, such as variety shows and outside broadcasts.

The size and weight of a Nipkow disk makes a display with more than a few dozen scan lines impracticable (in stark contrast to modern screens with thousands of lines). But when a mechanical TV is fed a moving image, the result is surprisingly watchable. And Nipkow displays are fascinating in their simplicity—no high voltages or complex matrices. So I wondered: What was the easiest way to build such a display that would produce a good quality image?

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World Builders Put Happy Face On Superintelligent AI

The Future of Life Institute’s contest counters today’s dystopian doomscapes

4 min read
A cityscape ensconced in an iridescent dome of light and shapes.
Hiroshi Watanabe/Getty Images

One of the biggest challenges in a world-building competition that asked teams to imagine a positive future with superintelligent AI: Make it plausible.

The Future of Life Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on existential threats to humanity, organized the contest and is offering a hefty prize purse of up to US $140,000, to be divided among multiple winners. Last week FLI announced the 20 finalists from 144 entries, and the group will declare the winners on 15 June.

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Harnessing the Power of Innovation Intelligence

Through case studies and data visualizations, this webinar will show you how to leverage IP and scientific data analytics to identify emerging business opportunities

1 min read
Clarivate
Clarivate

Business and R&D leaders have to make consequential strategic decisions every day in a global marketplace that continues to get more interconnected and complex. Luckily, the job can be more manageable and efficient by leveraging IP and scientific data analytics. Register for this free webinar now!

Join us for the webinar, Harnessing the power of innovation intelligence, to hear Clarivate experts discuss how analyzing IP data, together with scientific content and industry-specific data, can provide organization-wide situational awareness and reveal valuable business insights.

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