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Data Storage Hardware

IBM Creates Working "Racetrack Memory" 99

holy_calamity writes "IBM has created the first working 'racetrack memory' device — a technology we've discussed as it's been touted as the future of memory. It works by writing bits using the magnetic domains inside a very thin wire. Those domain can be shunted along this 'racetrack' and past read heads."
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IBM Creates Working "Racetrack Memory"

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  • Sounds like... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @09:43AM (#23035540) Homepage
    ... bubble memory. Welcome to 1968.
  • by jockeys ( 753885 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:22AM (#23036020) Journal
    but hasn't this been done in the past with electrical pulses sent down a very long wire? In a loop? So long ago that registers were called accumulators?

    I remember my OpSys prof showing us one of these things that was new and shiny when HE was in school. Basically just a long (couple km, I think) wire wrapped up in a small coil the size of a shoebox that acted as RAM by sending pulses around the loop, reading them and then sending them again... the delay of electrons traveling the loop acted as extra space, until you were sending pulses continuously. Sort of like a circular stack.

    Anyone else see some similarities here?
  • Re:Turing Machine! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by somersault ( 912633 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:28AM (#23036100) Homepage Journal
    Lego Turing Machine []

    Lego Difference Engine [] :D
  • For primary storage (Score:3, Interesting)

    by foniksonik ( 573572 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:39AM (#23036264) Homepage Journal
    The interesting thing is that they feel it is capable of being primary we're talking Terabytes...

    Could be interesting.
  • Compared to PMC? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by babymac ( 312364 ) <ph33d AT charter DOT net> on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:50AM (#23036420) Homepage
    Does anyone have any idea how this compares to programmable metallization cell [] technology which made the news recently? How close to production is PMC vs racetrack memory?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:53AM (#23036468)
    Your sarcasm is well targeted. I think techies forget how fast things evolve, because they fail to appreciate incremental increases.

    Ten years ago we weren't using PCI Express, and AGP was extremely new.. we were mostly using PCI graphics cards! 3D support wasn't even common at the time. We were surfing the information superhighway at 33.6kbps, 20GB was considered a lot, and black and white laptops were still reasonably common!
  • Re:Bubble memory (Score:3, Interesting)

    by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:54AM (#23036474)
    Original HP pocket calculators used bubble memory. Yes, I am that old...
  • Re:Turing Machine! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @11:18AM (#23036776) Homepage Journal
    Well, as a practical matter you probably wouldn't make linear memory with a single read head that was billions of bits long. Nor would you be likely to treat it as such in your programs, although you might have clever adjustments to your algorithms that take its overall performance characteristics into account, the way that people take the performance characteristics of hard disks as a kind of unspoken assumption.

    For that matter, modern random access memory is really more of an abstraction than a reality. Programmers usually don't worry about things like memory pages except in a kind of statistical way. The address you want may be in cache, or it may be in DRAM or it may be in the paging file.

    Most programmers have been living with an abstraction for a very long time, which is that there are two kinds of memory: fast, volatile random access memory and slow, persistent "external" memory. This seems like it is a fundamental difference, but it is really quite arbitrary. You could treat a robotic tape library as a massive, but slow random access persistent memory, if that suited your purposes. Different aspects of flash memory straddle different parts of the divide between working memory and persistent storage.

    I'd say the single thing most likely to really change over the next twenty years is this neat two way division of memory, especially as mobile and embedded devices become more common.
  • Re:Bubble memory (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kevmatic ( 1133523 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @11:52AM (#23037216)
    Well, it worked, alright. But it took forever for the information to get around the loop, leading to large seek times, and they couldn't push it over a mbit a chip. I'm thinking they used actual wire while IBM is probably lithographically defining it like a CPU transistor. And yes, they used it. If you look closely at any CNC machine shop that's been around for a while, you'll probably find one or two machines from the era with bubble memory, still whirring away. CNC machines, for many many years, had to keep pushing the limits of computer technology to keep up with their motors and sensing systems.

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982