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IBM Makes First Racetrack Memory Chip 51

Posted by Soulskill
from the write-fast-read-left-write-fast-read-left dept.
holy_calamity writes "For several years, we've followed the progress of IBM's revolutionary 'racetrack' memory, which stores data inside nanowires for several years. Now Big Blue has made the first prototype integrated onto a single chip, using the CMOS processing technique used in commercial chip fabs. It's still a research prototype, but goes some way to validate IBM's claim that the technology could be commercialized."
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IBM Makes First Racetrack Memory Chip

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  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:11PM (#38270744)

    to find that the article has nothing to do with Deep Blue simulating a bunch of dogs chasing a fake rabbit.

  • Finally (Score:4, Funny)

    by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:17PM (#38270858) Journal

    This will give computers the ability to gain performance through the use of red paint and stickers!

  • Will this be the end of garbage collection?

  • by clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:41PM (#38271296)
    Go back and read the comments on the Dec 2010 [slashdot.org] Slashdot item. A great deal of ire was vented over racetrack memory being in the 10-to-15-year-where's-my-flying-car distant future. And here we sit 12 months later with a functioning CMOS chip. I can't wait to fly around the block.
    • by Rockoon (1252108) on Monday December 05, 2011 @05:47PM (#38272360)

      And here we sit 12 months later with a functioning CMOS chip that stores only one bit per wire instead of actually being racetrack memory.

      There, fixed that for you.

      • . . . that stores only one bit per wire . . .

        Yes, but imagine a series of tubes built with these wires . . . and there ya' got an Internet, don't ya . . . ?

        Oh, and the US military has funded the aviation industry and built your flying car.

        It's called a cruise missile.

        Seats four, and a bomb in the trunk.

        DVD Player extra.

    • by mdmkolbe (944892)

      Yeah, but then the second page says "the IBM work doesn't yet demonstrate all of the key components that make racetrack memory desirable", so I guess we technically have a flying car, but not the kind that people want.

      • by Surt (22457)

        It's a flying car, just with minor flaws like it only holds one passenger, and the passenger arrives dead.

  • IBM rules (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lucm (889690) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:45PM (#38271360)

    People underestimate the value of all the R&D IBM is doing. They spend a lot of money on this kind of research, and they do it seriously. And they don't look for the latest fad to blow the mind of consumers - they build for the long run.

    Ok, their GUIs usually make my eyes bleed and the setup for some of their products is painful (Tivoli anyone?). But IBM is moving forward; their cloud offering, which was a complete joke a few years ago, is getting pretty good. Their stuff does not shine like Apple, it does not integrate like Microsoft, but it works pretty well.

    • Re:IBM rules (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gentryx (759438) * on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:58PM (#38271534) Homepage Journal

      IBM is the company which gets the most patents awarded. Every single year. Since decades. The don't do research out of goodwill, but for profit. Yes, not just shortsighted, but for the long haul. That's why they still exist. Since 100 years.

      It's hard to compare IBM to Apple, since they target completely different customers: Apple is cosumers, IBM is business.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by The Askylist (2488908)

        All well and good, but "racetrack" memory, when all is said and done, is just a reimplementation of the mercury delay lines that were used for storage in the Leo machines back in the 1950s.

        Different, but still the same concept of cycling the bits round a circuit and reading them sequentially.

        I'd shout "Prior Art" at it.

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by gentryx (759438) *
          I'm not an expert on racetrack memory, but yeah: I'd love to see so much more patents invalidated because of prior art. Today, patents seldom serve their original purpose. When I was at IBM they admitted that they mostly used the patents to defend against lawsuits from other companies which were claiming infringement with their own patents. Every big player in the business does this (as can be seen in the recent smartphone patent wars), but that's leading off topic...
          • Re:IBM rules (Score:5, Informative)

            by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday December 05, 2011 @06:17PM (#38272792) Homepage Journal

            When I was at IBM they admitted that they mostly used the patents to defend against lawsuits from other companies which were claiming infringement with their own patents.

            Mmm, I think you misunderstood, or the presentation only addressed one sort of patents. IBM makes lots of money from licensing its patents. There is a difference, though, which is that the patents that IBM licenses (by and large, there may be exceptions) are "legitimate". They're real, serious advances in the art which are of real value to their licensees, and not something that any random engineer would come up with off the top of their head when faced with a similar problem. Most of the patents IBM licenses for big bucks are for things like lithography processes, techniques for increasing disk storage density... and this racetrack memory.

            I no longer work for IBM, but I did spend 14 years there and while I have many (many!) other criticisms of the company, I think their approach to patents is a good one.

            • by gentryx (759438) *

              I can only say what I've been told. However, I didn't want to create the impression that I despised of IBM's patent politics. The hardly ever attack (troll) with their patents and act very reasonable regarding prior art.

              That said, I'd distinguish between two issues here: #1 trivial patents vs. "real" inventions and #2 patents as a means to drive innovation vs. patents as a war chest to fight off competition. Regarding #1: while I don't have any papers to back up that claim, I've got the impression that IBM'

              • by hitmark (640295)

                IBM, Samsung, Nokia, Motorola, all seem to hold technical patents of some sort or other.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              If Dave Haynie (at the time with Commodore, I was working for Motorola) would care to contribute to what may be misremembered on my part, I had a conversation with him about how Commodore dealt with IBM. He called it the "Stack-o-Patents (tm)" attack (or was it defense?). Once a year or so, IBMs lawyers would come visit Commodore to discuss licensing issues and bring with them their Stack-o-Patents while getting Commodore's lawyers to bring out theirs, as well. A few engineers would quickly riffle throug

        • Re:IBM rules (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MobyDisk (75490) on Monday December 05, 2011 @06:21PM (#38272844) Homepage

          IBM may well cite that prior art in their patent application. Contrary to what Slashdot may make you believe, prior art does not invalidate patents. Most patents explicitly list the prior art that led them their. The fact that someone did this with a mercury delay line would in no way invalidate a patent on doing it electronically. This is certainly novel and not obvious. You wouldn't invalidate a patent on a transistor because someone created a switch out of water and gears 100 years ago.

          This is exactly the kind of good research that patents are intended to protect. Companies spending time and money to try and solve a problem no one has solved before in order to advance technology. If IBM truly delivers a memory chip that is an order of magnitude smaller and/or faster than DRAM they deserve the royalties from that patent. We should happily pay it in each chip we buy knowing that the patent system gave them an incentive to push technology.

          • by hitmark (640295)

            I wonder if we will see racetrack vs memristor benchmarks in the future, with the attendant flamewars...

        • That was my first thought to. Of course, it's a reimplementation of mercury delay lines in the same way that an ion drive is a reimplementation of a V2, so it probably does deserve some credit...
        • by Anonymous Coward

          No. No nope no. This is the kind of tech that does deserve a patent. This isn't, "we stuck a clock radio on it." This is a spintronic device that stores data sequentially. The physics is different, the implementation is different. The fact that the output is the same has nothing to do with the originality of the device.

        • by lucm (889690)

          All well and good, but "racetrack" memory, when all is said and done, is just a reimplementation of the mercury delay lines that were used for storage in the Leo machines back in the 1950s.

          Different, but still the same concept of cycling the bits round a circuit and reading them sequentially.

          I'd shout "Prior Art" at it.

          Let's play Prior Art Jeopardy: "I am a technology that provides an abstraction layer allowing components written in different languages to interact".
          1) What is the .Net Framework CLR
          2) What is a web service
          3) What is CORBA
          4) What is CICS

          Based on the notion of "prior art", guess who would get the patent...

      • by tsotha (720379)

        IBM is the company which gets the most patents awarded. Every single year.

        Sadly, in and of itself that means nothing. Patents vary widely in quality.

        • by dkf (304284)

          IBM is the company which gets the most patents awarded. Every single year.

          Sadly, in and of itself that means nothing. Patents vary widely in quality.

          Yeah, but most of IBM's patents are the good ones. Won't say all — someone's bound to find a counterexample — but the vast majority are in areas where patents work fine and have always worked. (For example, if you're doing advanced chip design then you're working in an area where there masses of IBM patents, mostly expired.)

          Patents are a problem only when they are unclear, over-broad, and insufficiently innovative. Alas, too many in the computing area are like that, but IBM's seem to be much les

      • by tehcyder (746570)
        FYI "Since decades" and "since 100 years" aren't English phrases. You need to replace "since" with "for".

        I have lived in this house since 2001, so I have lived there for ten years.
        • by gentryx (759438) *
          Again what learned, as one would say in Germany -- literally. ;-) I didn't know that one, so thanks!
    • > Ok, their GUIs usually make my eyes bleed and the setup for some of their products is painful (Tivoli anyone?)

      Definitely. Tivoli is such a pain to setup. TDI, TAM, iTIM, TEM...even the middleware is a nightmare of an install for a setup. Having to use Xming/Reflections for middleware component installation on an AIX box is just annoying....

    • I almost modded you down just for bringing nightmarish memories of Tivoli back into my conscious mind. Do you know how long it has taken me to successfully repress those memories? Nevertheless I will refrain from down-modding and instead I will send you the bill from my shrink.
      • by lucm (889690)

        I almost modded you down just for bringing nightmarish memories of Tivoli back into my conscious mind. Do you know how long it has taken me to successfully repress those memories?

        Nevertheless I will refrain from down-modding and instead I will send you the bill from my shrink.

        If you want to have a surreal experience, visit an IBM conference or trade show (such as the IBM Tech University) and go for a drink with a bunch of Tivoli consultants. Yep, people who have spent their days in Tivoli, for years. They are a special breed, very resilient.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Heh heh. The setup for Tivoli is so bad that you can pay them millions just to get it installed... and then you have to run Tivoli. Still pretty amazing, but boy is it obfuscated. When I worked in support only one person really knew each product on average... and I knew inventory, and I don't work there any more :D

    • by Thing 1 (178996)

      (Tivoli anyone?)

      Was better as just a holiday...

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