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HP Hardware Technology

The HP Memristor Debate 62

New submitter AaronLS writes "There has been a debate about whether HP has or has not developed a memristor. Since it's something fairly different from existing technologies, and similar in many ways to a memristor, I think they felt comfortable using the term. However, the company has been criticized for using that labeling by former U.S. patent officer Blaise Moutett. On the other hand, had HP created a new, unique label, they would have probably gotten flack for pretending it's something new when it's not. Will anything positive come from this debate? Electrical engineering analyst Martin Reynolds sums it up nicely: 'Is Stan Williams being sloppy by calling it a "memristor"? Yeah, he is. Is Blaise Moutett being pedantic in saying it is not a "memristor"? Yeah, he is. [...] At the end of day, it doesn't matter how it works as long as it gives us the ability to build devices with really high density storage.'"
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The HP Memristor Debate

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:49PM (#40770755)
    I feel like I'm eavesdropping in the middle of a conversation between two mental patients.
  • Hmmm ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Grindalf ( 1089511 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @06:50PM (#40770767) Journal
    Someone's pinched their hysteresis curve? Groan ...
  • Memristors (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Master Moose ( 1243274 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @07:08PM (#40770957) Homepage

    For those like me that went huh?

    The memristor ( /mmrstr/; a portmanteau of "memory resistor") was originally envisioned in 1971 by circuit theorist Leon Chua as a missing non-linear passive two-terminal electrical component relating electric charge and magnetic flux linkage. More recently the memristor definition was generalized by Leon Chua to cover all forms of 2-terminal non-volatile memory devices based on resistance switching effects. []

    Personally, I still have no idea.

  • by jiriw ( 444695 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @07:16PM (#40771043) Homepage

    'They' say it isn't a true memristor because its data deteriorates a bit over time. But ... isn't that true of all other current basic electronic components as well? Capacitors have some leakage, making it a 'bit' a resistor. Inductors do not have a perfect Q. Even at its resonance point some energy is dissipated as heat, dampening the resonance circuit it is part of and making it a 'bit' a resistor as well. Resistors are most of the time at least 'half' a winding on a 'coil'... when alternating current passes through them with a high frequency, they act a 'bit' as an inductor. And they may have a parasitic capacitance with other components near it.

    So, what gives if this HP invention is not the 'perfect' memristor. As long as it's close enough, it would do. In other words: if it quacks like a duck...

    • by FrankSchwab ( 675585 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @08:09PM (#40771559) Journal

      The comment above ( is more informative - a real Memristor is defined in terms of electric and magnetic fields. The HP memristor looks just like a real one, but doesn't involve a magnetic field at all.

    • by Matimus ( 598096 ) <> on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @08:34PM (#40771753)
      I came here to say precisely this. It isn't an 'ideal' component. Which is what the theory is based on. But then neither is any electrical component you can think of. Even resistors stop being linear at very high or very low voltages / currents. Anybody ever seen an ideal current source? An ideal voltage source? And ideal op-amp? Its not ideal because it is a real device. Ideal components only exist on paper.
    • by neonsignal ( 890658 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:47PM (#40772241)

      The issue here isn't the imperfection of the HP device. It is a matter of semantics.

      The 'memristor' was conceived as a term to describe a basic device where the change in flux is related to the change in charge.

      What HP have produced is a device that substantially behaves like a memristor, if you are only measuring current and voltage at the terminals. That's useful if you want to build a memory device, since the behaviour is such that resistance will vary with the integral of the current through it.

      However, the physics by which the HP device works is not a physics of memristance. For practical purposes, that may not matter; it is a simple device with useful properties. But terminology wise, it is memristance behaviour, not an unqualified memristor.

      Equivalently, one can build an active circuit that uses a capacitor and a feedback loop to emulate an inductor. It isn't technically an inductor at all, but it does get called an "active inductor".

      • by epine ( 68316 )

        At the end of day, it doesn't matter how it works as long as it gives us the ability to build devices with really high density storage.

        Goldman Sachs creams their jeans over this kind of IQ-dismissive pragmatism among the puntocrats.

        At the end of day, it doesn't matter how much it costs to ship a 50lb bucket of roofing nails as long as it gives us the ability to shop in our pyjamas; nor does it matter whether the business model has ever flirted with a profitable quarter, so long as it garners eyeballs.


      • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @07:11AM (#40775063)
        Terminology IS important. Suppose HP gets a patent on their "memristor", and suppose someone else discovers a true memristor within 20 years. The HP "memristor" could set back the state of science with stupid patent lawsuits for a generation.

        Let's keep scientific terminology pure, and not let the business types hijack all our established terms for their marketing bullshit.

        • I agree. Semantics (the relation of language to meaning) is important. I wasn't defending HP's misuse of the word 'memristor'.

    • by hazydave ( 96747 )

      Agreed. Any off the shelf inductor is composed of inductive, resistive, and capacitive components. And in fact, go above its self resonance frequency and the component will behave redominantly as a capacitor. Just sayin.... the datasheet still says "inductor". No one expects a memristor to be the world's first perfect component.

  • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @08:02PM (#40771501)

    Mouttet, a former U.S. patent officer who specialized in nanotechnology, has long argued that HP's technology is not really a memristor. "All HP is doing, in my opinion, is skewing the history to make it look like they were the originators of this technology and it is really not true", Mouttet tells Wired. "To me, this is unethical."

    Former U.S. patent officer calls someone unethical. The mind boggles.

    And as if that weren't enough, he has patents in the area himself and therefore cannot be a fair witness.

    Skepticism about radical new devices is always healthy, but Mouttet's opinion on this topic inspires the opposite of confidence.

    • Would you rather have somebody working the patent office that has no idea of what such technologies entail?
      • by Threni ( 635302 )

        Would you rather have somebody working the patent office that has no patents in the area of such technologies?


      • False dichotomy. I would want someone familiar or with expertise in the subject area, but without the conflict of interest of having patents themselves.
  • For Example: In todays fog-bound and befuddled cellular market we find people BLATANTLY branding their products 4G when , in actual fact, they are NOT.

    And no I'm not just talking about The BIG A who chose to market their 4G (ie LTE capable) product in Australia as such even though it COULD NOT talk to the LTE network in Australia. I'm talking about branding a product as 4G when it DOES NOT USE ACTUAL 4G TECHNOLOGY.

    So if there's no real (ie financially punitive damages) backlash in the 4G-not-reall
  • by WaywardGeek ( 1480513 ) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @12:20AM (#40773197) Journal

    The above comments were unusually clueless, so here's a new topic, way at the bottom.

    Do any of the previous posters have any actual experience dealing with memristors? My phone rang off the hook when this BS story hit the Internet a few years ago. I worked at QuckLogic, where we built "memristors", but failed to have the marketing brilliance to call them anything other than "antifuses". I don't blame the guy at HP who did pull this off. That's how the game is played.

    Here's reality. "Memristors" are the basis of Actel and QuickLogic antifuse based FPGAs. We had them characterized years before they were discovered by HP. The more charge you put through them, the lower the resistance. If you put current the other way, the resistance goes up. It was somewhat linear, so I have to beat myself up for not calling them memristors.

    HP won the marketing round. However, people now have high expectations for this technology making something useful. If they want to make programmable logic out of it, they should talk to someone like me.

    • Interesting. I always thought anti-fuses were a one-way kind of thing - start at high resistance, and program them to low resistance, with no reverse path. I didn't know that they went both ways (as it were).

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court