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Definition: future memory chips


For decades, the goal has been to create a memory chip that is non-volatile like storage but with the speed and addressability of RAM. Such a technology would dramatically change the industry.

The flash memory commonly used in SSDs and USB drives is non-volatile, but it reads and writes chunks of bytes like a hard disk. RAM is much faster, and it can be read and written one byte at a time (see byte addressable). However, RAM is volatile and loses its content when the power is off. See storage vs. memory and chips vs. disks.

A Paradigm Shift
Operating systems and applications are designed to continuously save newly created data to storage. When main memory finally "remembers" like it did in the old days of core memory (why it was originally called "memory"), many data elements will reside in memory at all times. In addition, computers will be "instant-on" and not waste AC or battery power when idle.

Intel's 3D XPoint is a commercial product that is a step in the right direction (see 3D XPoint). Several other technologies have been in long stages of development (see phase change memory, programmable metallization cell, MRAM, F-RAM, NRAM and memristor).