After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

Computers Powered by ‘Memristors’ – Blink!

Posted on September 7, 2010
Filed Under Technology | Leave a Comment

We don’t normally write about computers because lots of other blogs are doing that well. We’re more interested in the processes and products that result from computer-assisted research and innovation. But we like to have a fast computer-at-the ready as much as anyone. So the news about “memristors” begs to be passed along.

Memristors?  They’re microscopic devices that promise to allow the continued  miniaturization of electronic circuits and extend “Moore’s Law” for decades. You’ll recall that Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted in 1965 that the number of transistors that can be added to an integrated circuit would at least double every two years. That, however, could have a limit, before computers will be fast enough to function in “lightbulb mode” – simply on and off, with no startup sequence or even momentary hesitation on tasks.

Until now. Alan Boyle, science editor, writes about memristors, the anticipated extenders of transistors, on msnbc’s Cosmic Log blog. Hewlett Packard, Boyle reports, just announced “a collaboration with memory-chip maker Hynix to get the first memristors to market in three years. One of the first goals will be to create a computer you can ‘turn on and off like a light bulb,’ said Stan Williams, founding director of HP Lab’s Information and Quantum Systems Laboratory. But that’s just the beginning.”

Here’s the definition you’ve been waiting for: “Memristors, or ‘memory resistors,’ take advantage of the fact that passing electrical current through particular types of material will change the molecular structure of that material so that it ‘remembers’ which way the current was running, and at what voltage, even when the power is turned off.”

Three years or so till computers that work in the blink of an eye…on-off-on, just that fast. Memristors figure to enable them to function virtually instantaneously, from startup on through.

Now that’s it’s assured that we’ll have all the processing power for whatever we can envision designing and building, we can get on with figuring out how to meet the world’s most pressing needs. We recommend Alan Boyle’s memristors piece, which includes a You Tube video with Stan Williams, as an encouraging prompt into the future. – Doug Bedell

– Photo: A circuit with 17 memristors was captured by an atomic force microscope. By R. Stanley Williams/HP Labs


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