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Has Intel Invented a Universal Memory Tech?

The mysterious XPoint memory in Intel’s new Optane solid-state drive is a step toward universal memory

4 min read
Photo: Intel
Learning to Drive: Intel’s Optane storage device is a zippier solid-state drive. Memory modules are next.
Photo: Intel

Today’s computers shuttle data around a byzantine system of several different kinds of short- and long-term memory. No wonder, then, that engineers have long dreamed of one memory technology to rule them all, a universal memory that would simplify computing and streamline the path of data.

In March, Intel announced that it will sell to data centers a new kind of solid-state drive, called Optane, that it says could lead to this kind of simplification. Optane drives are nonvolatile, like flash memory, which means that they should use relatively little standby power and that they’re fast, like DRAM. “It really starts to marry the worlds of memory and storage together,” company CEO Brian Krzanich says in a promotional video, over the swells of heroic music. The technology “comes close to being the holy grail of memory,” says Intel executive vice president William Holt in the same video.

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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
LightGreen

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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