Mixing Memory To Speed Solid-State Drives

Korean researchers find that a little ferroelectric RAM goes a long way

2 min read

The pricey MacBook Air you covet, with its small, lightweight, shock-resistant solid-state drive (SSD), may have a secret. Despite their advantages, solid-state drives suffer not just from enormous price tags but also from slow performance during certain key operations. Now Korean engineers report that through a clever mix of two types of memory, they can give solid-state drives a boost without also jacking up their price.

Unlike a traditional hard-disk drive, which can write new data directly over recorded data, the NAND flash memory that makes up solid-state drives requires free memory space in which to write. That's usually not a problem when you have to write large chunks of sequential data, such as a video clip. But it is a problem when you have to make frequent small additions and changes to existing data. If, for instance, you need to update a file, the original data must be copied to a fresh memory block so that the first block can be erased. The new data can then be merged with the original and written back to the first block.

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The Ultimate Transistor Timeline

The transistor’s amazing evolution from point contacts to quantum tunnels

1 min read
A chart showing the timeline of when a transistor was invented and when it was commercialized.
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Even as the initial sales receipts for the first transistors to hit the market were being tallied up in 1948, the next generation of transistors had already been invented (see “The First Transistor and How it Worked.”) Since then, engineers have reinvented the transistor over and over again, raiding condensed-matter physics for anything that might offer even the possibility of turning a small signal into a larger one.

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