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64 Mbyte Write once CMOS Chip from Standard Fabs 173

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the wait-till-it-shrinks-a-bit dept.
brian wang writes "Matrix semiconductor has taped out 64 Mbyte write once chip. It is 8 layer memory that can be made at standard fabs. They will be made at Taiwan Semiconductor initially in a 0.25micron process. It will be compatible with Flash. Obviously when they move to 0.18 micron and 0.13 and 0.10 micron processes that already are producing chips the memory size will shoot up to rival CDRoms from single chips. Revolutionary impact for handhelds, PCs, ROMDrives etc..." See, I knew it: Little is better.
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64 Mbyte Write once CMOS Chip from Standard Fabs

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Thats _not_ what she said....
  • No more scratches (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    But they will not burn so nice and bright in the microwave...
    What a shame.

    On the serious side tho, it looks like a very viable technology for permanent information sharing between many devices...
  • OS BIOS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lavaforge (245529) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @10:27AM (#2731775)
    I'm not too much of a hardware guy, but I do know that the BIOS of a computer are made of CMOS. I also know that they're extremely small. Would this have any impact on instant boot projects like LinuxBIOS? With 64MB you could fit pretty much the entire boot procedure. That would be sweet.
    • Re:OS BIOS (Score:4, Informative)

      by toastyman (23954) <toasty@dragondata.com> on Thursday December 20, 2001 @10:34AM (#2731808) Homepage
      Actually, no.

      The tiny bit of ram that the BIOS uses to store all your settings between boots is made of CMOS. The BIOS itself is stored in regular PROMs or in more recent years flash rom.
      • True...
        But you could use it to put an absolute SHITLOAD of setttings in the cmos ;-)
        • Re:OS BIOS (Score:2, Insightful)

          by toastyman (23954)
          .... that you could only write once, sure. :)
        • It ought to be able to handle the boot image for Linux, including your scsi driver so at least the portion of the boot sequence which is loaded read-only would be immediate. My first thought on reading the article was that the people over at LinuxBIOS might be perking up their ears, as (in the recent Linux Journal article) it's been said that one of their main problems is fitting the necessary code onto present BIOS chips.
      • You are right, but the thing is that his idea is
        current, since these CMOS chips are write once they
        are more like the PROM's. So if the PROM started to
        come as a Matrix chip you could replace them simply
        with the Matrix chip with your favourite BIOS chip
        and yes it could have everything on it. Then we could
        see impressive boot times, can you imagine Linux
        up and running within 30Secs (I don't know how fast
        they are).
    • The big problem with using this for LinuxBIOS is that, being write-once, every time a new kernel comes out you have to burn and install a new chip.

      Moreover, if you want the whole system on the chip, as you suggest here, then you need to buy, burn, and install a new chip each time you upgrade any piece of the system.

      For this reason, flash has many advantages in terms of convenience for BIOSes unless you really want to lock the system down and upgrade only rarely if at all.
  • ZAP! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    CDs don't get zapped with static.


  • Interesting stuff, but how much storage space will we ultimately need to carry with us?

    With technology like this advancing along with moore's law I can see that it shouldn't be a few more years before it'll be commonplace to carry devices with GBs of data in your pocket.

    It's a common point to note that famous phrase that "640Kb should be enough for anyone!", but I think that now we truely are starting to reach the limits of neccessity for normal portable memory.

    How much do you really think YOU need to carry?

    -- Pete.

    • If the technology is there, people will want to carry (DVD-quality) movies around (without a "huge" DVD..). Once we're there, people will want to carry many of them. And then 3D-movies.. and after that I'm sure someone will come up with something even bigger.
    • Interesting stuff, but how much storage space will we ultimately need to carry with us?
      I think it's not so much "how much" as it is "what kind". This is a nicely portable write-once medium that operates like a conventional CF card. I see it as handy for carrying keying materials (like your GPG private keyring) without having to worry about Mallet trojanizing its contents. More portable and sturdier than a CD-R.
    • In the area of high-quality video, more really is better. If you are using uncompressed video it can suck up the proverbial GB's and GB's of space rather quickly. Who wouldnt want hours of high quality video/audio all on there Palm/IPAQ/Handspring type device.

      There would, however need to be a convenient (read wireless), fast way to dump such things back and forth to your home PC. This to me seems to be more of a potential bottleneck than disk space.

    • by Tsar (536185) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @10:56AM (#2731914) Homepage Journal
      In ten years, if I can have a 1-cm resolution 3D map of my city, which will overlay on my HUD-equipped Oakleys and provide interactivity with any object in my visual environment, and that database requires a 500GB solid state 3D-memory device, then that's what I'm going to want. Learn from history: If you build it, the applications will come.

      I once heard a story (may be an urban legend—anybody have good data?) that Bill Gates once visited Intel's offices and that while he and Andy Grove strolled about the facility, Grove mentioned that it was difficult to imagine a widespread consumer market for the blazingly fast CPUs on the far right of Intel's roadmap. According to the story, Gates replied with something like, "Don't worry; continue to develop and market faster chips, and we will continue to develop and market innovative and compelling software that will bring it to its knees." I'd wager that the same goes for memory technology.
      • by plastik55 (218435) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @12:19PM (#2732337) Homepage
        ...overlay on my HUD-equipped Oakleys and provide interactivity with any object in my visual environment...


        You can just walk up and touch the things you know...

      • ...overlay on my HUD-equipped Oakleys...

        Yeah, I can't wait for environment-based RSD overlay [mvis.com] myself, but RAM doesn't need to be a major limitation; after all, in 10 years you should be able to wirelessly tap into such a database from anywhere, and you would only need buffer your immediate surroundings- more efficient than a static database of your entire city.

        I can imagine a few killer apps:

        • The ability to block out annoying ads in real life (woohoo!)
        • A helper app for those with trouble mentally undressing people for business (giving speeches) and pleasure. :)
        • Never-Forget-A-Name-Again Tags(TM)
        • GPS + ObjectRecognition based info overlay (for when there is no map, or preexisting tags)
        • Oh yeah... can't forget about full FOV, stereoscopic media & gaming -- like a personal IMAX theater.
        Ten years is a little on the pessimistic side though...

        --

    • How much do you really think YOU need to carry?

      Dunno. It would be nice to have three cards in my wallet, one with my Linux system on it, one with my OS X system on it, one with my Windows system on it, and be able to insert it into a driveless box anywhere I go.

      More likely, it would be nice to be able to carry a lot of music, voice notes, etc. around in a card in my wallet.

      The point is, you don't know what possibilities Moore's Law will open for the future, and you don't know what people will think they'll need in the future.

    • I don't care how much storage/memory someone wants to carry with them.

      Just don't connect it to me! (think Johnny Mnemonic [dvdverdict.com] or )

      I don't cherish the thought of having to reboot my brain, or memory, whether for a hardware upgrade or software crash...

      I am not opposed to use for artificial limbs, etc., as has been discussed before on (/. - Data Glove That Turns Gestures Into Commands [slashdot.org], just don't try to make my brain work faster...

    • How much do you really think YOU need to carry?

      Well I note that my kids commonly carry some gigabytes of memory around with them in the form of minidiscs, CDs and whatnot, so I don't see that having a ROM chip rivalling a CD in size is such a big stretch. It will almost certainly have its uses.

    • Well, I have 140Gb of storage for MP3s. I'd like to be able to carry that around, for a start. No more media for my walkman - just everything already in it.
    • Well, it would be nice to carry around my ~/. directory, but this is just a couple hundred MB. The whole music collection (maybe even uncompressed, just wav format) in a device size of a typical mp3 player - that's the good thing. I move around a lot and taking lots of cdroms/CDs is quite inconvenient.

      Or maybe different: forget PDAs, mp3 players and so on. Think about a key-ring device, like these USB storages, just with a couple of GBs on it, so you can carry _everything_ you need on it, like your home directory, which means you just plug it in any compatible computer (any unix, linux, MacOSX or whatever) and you feel at home: all your files, all your settings, your mp3s, your emacs and mutt configs (OK, I know _these_ would fit on a floppy ;-) are right here, just log in and enjoy.

      Surely, I would like a thing like that.

      Then of course a question: what is the power consumption of such memory compared to hard drives? Would it increase or reduce battery lifetime in notebooks? Well, for sure it would be faster and not so noisy as HD.

      Raf
      • considering there are no moving parts in solid state memory, I'd say it'd use considerably less power and be more reliable. Anyone know how many times nvram can be written to compared to conventional hard drives? I think we had a story not too long ago about ram-based hard drives.
    • With technology like this advancing along with moore's law I can see that it shouldn't be a few more years before it'll be commonplace to carry devices with GBs of data in your pocket.

      It's almost then now. Ever watched a DVD on your laptop while you're sitting on a plane?

      How much do you really think YOU need to carry?

      That question can't be answered unless we can also make assumptions about how much portable bandwidth is available to download data on demand from a (reliable, secure, vast) storage/distribution facility (whether that's an ASP or your always-connected desktop PC) and cache it. Then, the answer is, the optimal size of the cache.


    • Interesting stuff, but how much storage space will we ultimately need to carry with us?


      All of it. (grin)
    • How much? As much as my music collection [www.sweb.cz] requires. And /home, of course, so that would be 200GB for the music and, say, 10GB for other data.
    • Any new gizmo makes other devices change. (hopefully for the better -not always the case.) Smaller usually is better, mostly in the case of apps. Will this give software co's more of an excuse to make bigger, buggier apps? Probably. But... We all like gimicks, we wouldn't have read this speel otherwise.
    • I have been known to use twenty rolls of film on a three week holiday. So call that 720 pictures, each 1800 by 1200 by 24 bit planes each. Can't be bothered doing the arintmetic, but I think you can see that I could use a good form of cheap write-once memory..since the film I use now is write-once anyway. (barring double exposures I guess) I could see a process where I use rewriteble memory in a digital camera, then download the ones I want to keep into permanent storage.
  • I mean, what am I going to use this thing for that CD's, DVD's, already do? If it's WORM, I'm just not interested. I guess about all you could use it for is to cheaply up the amount of phrases a Furbie doll can spew out.. Like the one that the Jerky Boys came across...
    • I guess about all you could use it for is to cheaply up the amount of phrases a Furbie doll can spew out.

      Oh my God, now you've done it! Thanks to you Furbies will have a practically limitless repertoire! We'll never get a moment of quiet!

      Give a man a fish and he eats for one day. Teach him how to fish, and though he'll eat for a lifetime, he'll call you a miser for not giving him your fish.
    • Two words - Shock Resistant
    • I do. give me these devices that are 640MEG
      replace CD's with random access roms? they're 1" by 1" by 1/16" so I can carry 10 albums in my pocket, or 300 albums in my armrest in my car.
      and this is using standard CD technology ideas. plug in, no spinup time, no track seek time no skips no worry about not playing when I'm flying through the air after rearending the car stopped on the highway for the squirrel. No skips at all.

      I'd buy it, hell yeah.
    • my guess is that it doesn't get scratched
      have you ever burned a dvd disc?
      not exactly snappy

      tried burning a CD in your digital camera?

      my high speed CD drive is soo noisy and can oly get up to speed in burst mode, these won't have that problem

      reading from them will require no moving parts so the drives will be cheaper & more reliable.

      no more stupid cd roms / dvds for that gaming console.

      and with a bit of tweaking no doubt software manufacturers can mae one that are incompatable which is a big draw for them. They want cheap mass produced readers which is why they used CD rom variants.

      is that enough already?
  • by lfourrier (209630)
    I remember, years ago, a presentation of write only memory modules, in which you could write TERABYTES of data, in a very small (for the time)dip 16 form factor.
    That was a lot of capacity.
    And for the fact you could never read it, bah, examine your computer, your diskets box, your cdrom collection... how many Gb did you not read in the last three years.
    • I think you're talking about the fabled Signetics 25120 fully encoded, 9046 x N, Random Access, write-only-memory, released in 1974. Here are page 1 [ganssle.com] and page 2 [ganssle.com] of the data sheets.
    • I think what you are talking about is the holigraphic storage devices they were talking about..

      They were going to read a "crystal" in 3D and have very high storage capasity.

      Any one know what the latest advances that have been made on those?

      I would love to order 1 Tera Cube for my computer!
  • by Tsar (536185) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @10:35AM (#2731815) Homepage Journal
    "Using a 3-D fabrication method that deposits layers of circuits with a modified CMOS process, the technique can yield nine to 10 times the amount of chips per a given wafer, providing a cost advantage over traditional flash memory, according to Matrix..."

    So we could see a CDROM-capacity write-once "consumable memory" chip that was the same size as a 64MB chip now. Nice, but the article later says:

    "The company said it sees no limit to the number of layers that could be added to a device."

    How does that jive with the earlier stated scalability of 9-10x?

    "'If they can really do this and produce working devices, it is very hot,' said Richard Wawrzyniak, an analyst at Semico Research (Phoenix)."

    Oh, so heat is the limiting factor! <g> Seriously, though, I agree with his assessment—having the devices actually work would greatly contribute to their coolness factor.
    • It jives very well, the way I read it. They get more chips per wafer, at a factor of 9-10X since the chips' areas are smaller. They claim to be able to grow the volume (i.e., the height) by adding any number of layers. Thus, the overall capacity can scale without limit, assuming, probably, loads of things. Personally, I'm not sure this is an overall good thing--it just seems like a way for Kodak et al to continue the gotta-buy-consumable-storage way of photography running. And I dislike that. Of course, Sony's MemorySticks aren't exactly cheap... ;^)
      • Well proprietary Sony memory may not be cheap, but compact flash and smartmedia sure are. 320MB CF can be had for as cheap as $142. Tell me that's not cheap. Hell 2 years ago that much sdram would have cost at least that much. Speaking of cheap, compact flash costs only $20 for a 64MB piece, this tech is going to have to be damn cheap to be worth it. I mean who is going to buy write once memory for even a small fraction of the read/write equivilant?
        • OK. Are you happy now?

          Seriously, consider the potential for something like this with a storage capacity similar to that of a CD (or even bigger) with a cost comparable to a CD-R, but a footprint the size of a postage stamp. So, if you have a choice of spending $142 for 320 MB of reuseable CF, or getting 450+ GB of Write-Once CF-R for the same price, which one are you really likely to choose? (assume they can sell them for $1.99 each - be optimistic) And if you need more than a single piece of CF - because you have several devices that use it?

          This could replace a lot of currently used media (CDs, DVDs, VHS tape, floppies, film, etc) and they could all use the same reader hardware.
        • I buy write-once CDR's all the time and never even consider buying CDRW's. This is a direct result of the cost difference between the two, and the practical similarities in how they function for my purposes. For storing information that I don't expect to modify, why wouldn't I use write-only media, especially if there's a significant cost savings over an competing read-write medium? For photography there's already cameras out there that burn to a CDR as you take pictures, so there's definitely a market for folks who don't need to modify the information after its stored.

          All things being equal, why wouldn't I use something that's write-only, more reliable and faster than CDR's since it isn't bogged down by moving parts, and of an expected comparable price to optical media? Yeah, its vaporware right now, but if they manage to make those criteria I think it would be unwise to say they wouldn't have a market.

  • Really, I do hope they do well. It's always nice to see new technologies. I don't think this is particularily *new*, so to speak, but you get the idea.

    Now, the question is, will general consumers have any interest in these? I wouldn't want my motherboard's BIOS to be on one of these things. Even Intel and IBM make mistakes; if I had to buy a new chip with the new BIOS revision on it, I'd be irritated.

    Likewise, for PDAs and the like, it's even more doubtful. Sure, if they're cheap, it might be useful for *some* things. But do you want your OS on there? Really? Understand that you can't upgrade it, you can't change anything that's on there ... you're stuck with what they give you.
    • Understand that you can't upgrade it, you can't change anything that's on there ... you're stuck with what they give you

      Well, it depends. On a multisession CDROM you can add data until there's space on it. A translating layer in the middle could present the data in the new session as an overlay over the data in the previous sessions, thus giving you a "write few times - read many times" storage media, even if a given area can be written only once. This indeed is what is done at least for the table of contents of a multisession CDROM.

      Since CDROMs have slow access time, this is pratical only for the TOC, which is read only few times, but for these chips that would be a non-issue, and assuming you don't have to write 64MB (or whatever size they'll be) at once on them, you could effectively "update" the data on them.

      Incidentally, access to earlier versions of the data would be easy: one would just have to consider all the sessions but the last N ones...

      Does it still sound weird to use them for storing firmware?

      • You are correct... but mixing terms.
        It's still Write Once - Read Many. Just like a CD-R, or an old WORM drive.

        Regardless of how you are 'seeing' the filesystem on it.. you are still only ever writing to somewhere that has never been written before.

        Also... what do you mean, 'practical only for the TOC'? A multisession CD, yes, writes new data (if required) and a new TOC.

        How would this memory be any different?
        • Regardless of how you are 'seeing' the filesystem on it.. you are still only ever writing to somewhere that has never been written before

          Precisely. I just wanted to point out that writing it all at once isn't the only way it may be used, and with some little trickery it can be interesting for storing firmware that needs occasional updates.

          How would this memory be any different?

          Conceptually speaking, little if no difference.

          Pratically speaking (of a filesystem): since with this memory there are smaller access times than the ones of a CD reader, it would actually make sense to store only the data blocks that changed (or even just a diff).

          This isn't usually done with multisession CD, because it would obviously result in fragmented files, and CD readers have long seek times (thus long access times). I admit I was wrong in making an exception for the TOC, since the new ones contain also all the entries of the older ones (I thought they contained only the entries that changed).

          That said it is reasonable (with a multisession CD-R) to sacrifice space and write on the new session the full content of a file that changed, even if the difference is only a couple of bytes or so. With 1KB files that makes no difference, but with little changes in files of a dozen of so of megabytes... it starts to be expensive.

          BTW, iso9660 allows fragmented files only with iso9660 level 3 (and the last time I checked, Nero didn't support it, even if other less popular software did).

  • Ever closer (Score:4, Funny)

    by GigsVT (208848) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @10:43AM (#2731864) Journal
    To creating real Write-only [tuxedo.org]memory.
  • One thing I didn't see answered in the article: these chips are write-once, we know that. But does that mean you must write the entire chip in one session, or could it be done incrementally?

    Put another way, does write-once in this case mean it's like a CD (commit entire data payload in one chunk and seal it forever), or like a blank book (fill in pages as you go).

    If it can be done incrementally, that represents a significant advantage over CDs, other factors being (for the sake of argument) equal.

    • While you Do have to complete a CD-R session for any data to be written, and there is a penalty in capacity for writing multi-session. You can 'burn' dozens of 'sessions' onto a CD-r.

      Obviously the problem with this new media is that to be 100% compatible with flash the TOC area needs to be Rewritable. Otherwise each burn is going to require a new TOC is written, in a new spot, and the OS will need to support this.

      It would be interesting if they could use burn-proof technology along with a hybrid cd-r/cd-rw disc where the TOC area was RW and the data area was cd-r. A disc that appeared to be a 'single' session even though you had written to it several times. Which only saves a few dozen MBs... oh well.
    • Since when is a CD write once? I have a multi-session CD that I use to put larger documents on and bring to school to print on the color laser... about 20 different sessions. No problems. Maybe I'm confused about CD-Rs but I sure have written onto this one on 20 different occasions and still have quite a few megabytes of space left. Adam
  • by junkgui (69602)
    How many time will we hear about this? How many times will it be posted to slashdot without any one thinking... I wonder if this is the same story as... hmmm... that one a week ago...
    no...
    --junk
  • Misleading... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 20, 2001 @11:04AM (#2731943)
    The big news is not what's in the title. They've had large write-once memories before; they're called PROMs(Programmable read-only memories). The news is that they supposedly have a new 3-D fabrication technique.


    Using a 3-D fabrication method that deposits layers of circuits with a modified CMOS process, the technique can yield nine to 10 times the amount of chips per a given wafer, providing a cost advantage over traditional flash memory, according to Matrix (Santa Clara, Calif.).


    Perhaps in the future your processor will be the size and shape of a die or cube of cheese.
  • by skoda (211470) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @11:09AM (#2731963) Homepage
    Why should we care about this?

    - Write Once Memory: CD-ROM is 10x larger, and is very cheap. DVD-ROM will eventually be about 100x larger.

    - Solid-state storage for Digital Cameras: Write-Many memory chips are readily available. They are expensive, but reusable. Will this write-once chip be cheap enough to make it worth while? Or are these chips much smaller, making this interesting to travelers?

    - Computer Memory: Obviously not useful there (I don't see a market ofr single-use computers :)

    Is there other info about this memory, showing why this is of any use?
    • You ever scratch a CD? You ever scratch a DVD?

      Both types of media are great for what they do, but imagine it being a little cartridge(think nintendo here) that you pop in the front and it works great. Yeah, I'm sure that 10 years after it's use you'll have to do your special voodoo to make it work, but that's the way my DVD player is getting.

      On a side note, this looks VERY promising for console gaming. The speed of a cartride with the capacity of a CD.

      Pat
      • But again, I wonder why I want this?

        Cartridges have their own problems (size, weight, breakable connectors). Plus, Nintendo was the lone cartridge holdout with the N64. But now even they have gone to an optical disc medium. Why? Because capacity is vastly larger than cartridges and cost is much less.

        How does this WO memory change that balance? Is the storage there? Is the cost low enough?
        • I think the point the poster was making was that while 64 megs isn't a whole lot of space in terms of consumer media devices, very large capacity solid-state WORM devices will probably be the next major step in that field.

          Right now, Memory Sticks and flash memory aren't large enough to hold much more than medium sized picture catalogs or short MPG's, but if you can pack 4+ gigs on a chip the size of a stick of gum, you'll see a major shift in size and focus of all kinds of consumer electronics (which will, of course, be equipped with SSSCA anti-piracy voodoo chips).

          • the point I was making was that CDs are more delicate than cartridges. and the whole cartridge thing that followed was pretty much a brain fart. I don't see cartridges geting any smaller over time just for pure convenience. If they get much smaller, you'll lose them.

            I had a game boy for a while and those things were so tiny that I lost a good dozen games before I learned how to take care of them

            Pat
        • How many CD-R's have you had die on you?

          I find the idea of getting large quanties of Flash-ROM that work transparently with CF really interesting. Hell, 64mb at a dime a piece, they cost as much as GOOD CDR blanks, and are rated for 10x the shelf life.
      • The real point is where are these 1cm^2 DVDs that people are talking about here? When this device gets made at 0.13u, it could hold 256MB on a single small chip.

        Embed this device inside an earring with 20 hours of digital record capability powered by body heat.

        The uses are myriad. As someone said, instant access large capacity cartridges on the cheap. 4 of these chips on a small card providing 1GB of storage with >100MB/s read bandwidths?

        No, it isn't a solution to your RAM needs, or rewritable needs. But it is a solution to many other areas. If a 64MB chip costs $3 to buy with interface to hardware (e.g., USB plug) then that is a lot of high quality photos that won't get accidentally erased after your holiday.

    • Why should we care?
      simple.
      1) random access
      2) they're going to be quite a bit cheaper than the write-many chips that mp3/digial cameras use.
      Thus, people were talking about how things like palm still need new version, etc..
      with that, the actual OS can go on a 64M chip ( pretty damn big for palm standards ) and when an upgrade comes out, you get palm to ship you a new chip for $5.

      Also, they did mention that heat what was preventing them from adding more layers.
      so when fab size goes down, more layers can be added.Not bad.
      • Write once will only be useful for shipping prerecorded songs for the record companies. I like my SmartMedia cards and they cost about $0.50/MB today. When this company started work on these chips, the cost of flash memory was $2/MB or more. I can get a 64MB SmartMedia card for about $35-$40 depending on the brand I buy. The key thing here is that I can keep reusing the chip.

        With my 4Mpixel digital camera, I can fit about 80 pictures in high quality JPEG format. I can transfer them to my computer, then I can reuse it again. I can keep doing this over and over again. And after I use it 7 times, my 64MB SmartMedia card will break even with the $5 64MB MatrixSemi card. I don't know about you, but I like the fact that I can rewrite.

        And guess what? If DRAM is any example, flash memory cards will keep decreasing in price. MatrixSemi is in a niche market and their product will probably never catch on unless they can make their anti-fuse technology rewritable.
    • It's obvious that the purpose is to provide cheap readonly[1] media to record[2] companies. They'll write their encrypted MP3 equivalent[3] to these things rather than CDs and they can then drop their expensive CD pressing operations.

      It'll be the next big music format.

      [1] After all, why should they pay for read/write media?
      [2] And video companies once the chips are big enough.[3] WMA?
  • Sigh ... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Wordsmith (183749) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @11:12AM (#2731980) Homepage
    "See, I knew it: Little is better."

    Which girls have you been arguing this with, anyway?
  • AOL (Score:2, Funny)

    by mrroot (543673)
    Imagine how much money AOL could save in shipping if they could mail you a tiny chip instead of a CD!
  • by Myco (473173) on Thursday December 20, 2001 @11:32AM (#2732098) Homepage
    The article is a bit lacking on consumer-relevant details, but the marketese on their site [matrixsemi.com] gives you a better idea of that stuff.

    Notables:

    • Price: "Matrix 3DM cards will be comparable in cost to 35mm film and work in a similar fashion"
    • Longevity: "Matrix 3-D Memory's array structure results in an archival storage device capable of storing data for more than 100 years."
    • Scaling up: "By leveraging the same infrastructure as the rest of the industry, Matrix 3-D Memory will scale at least as fast as other semiconductor technologies, maintaining its significant cost advantage with future process generations."
    • Compatibility: "Interchangeable with re-writeable flash cards"
    • Capacity: "Comparable cost per megabyte to optical and magnetic storage"
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Scientific American has an article with an explanation of how Matrix did the 3D chips and what the future possibilities are

      http://www.sciam.com/2002/0102issue/0102lee.html
  • this time not random access [tuxedo.org] though
  • "Yawn Factor" (Yon-Fak-tur) n: The realisation that the product being showcased in an article registers as barely exciting.

    Hmm. Fits this. Whee, a 64MB PROM. Big Flappin Deal.

    So, just exactly how useful is this miracle device? About as useful as 1/10 of a CD-R. Probably less than that.

    I'm trying to think of something to make this little gem exciting. I just can't. Er. Maybe we could have 512MBIT SNES cartridges now?

    Really, I think I'll stick with my 64M compact flash card.

    Maybe they'll find some cheap interactive toy to stuff this miracle invention in. I can't think of the use for it, when CD-Rs are so prevalent.
  • A photography magazine says that Matrix intends to sell read only memory for digital cameras at half the writable price. Conclusion: they will only sell a limited amount for the direct consumer market. Their only hope is to target security related markets were everything should be traceable.
  • Sounds like Stephen R. Donaldson had something going when he described datacores in the Gap series. [inet.tele.dk]

    If you can jack one of these things up into giga, tera, or larger ranges, then you can start using it to provide write-once history logging. Big brother, black boxes, personal recorders...

    • Yeah, but the DMCA will prevent us from learning how to bypass it from the aliens.

      The ending of the series was cool. Say BYE-BYE to the later-day Bill Gates. (Hmmm, I wonder if Mr. Gates keeps _his_ mother's head alive in his basement.)
  • This is old technology with new marketing. The technology is called OTP ROM and has been available for over 20 years. During development time of a product, engineers want to use UV-erasable PROMs. But once you release it to manufacturing, there is no need to erase the ROM. So the idea is to put an identical die with the same electrical and speed characteristics in two different packages, ceramic, and plastic. The UV-erasable ones have a crystal window and are packaged in ceramic enclosure, which is very expensive. The one-time programmable ones don't have a window and are packaged in plastic, which are very low-cost.
  • all of this is very well an good, but what i keep seeing is [new] products that, even when they are better than the old standard, cheaper, etc, they are not adopted because there are way too many new options to choose from and none of them can be as 'universal' as the current standard. Case in point: any alternative to floppy drives. also, any competitor to Windows and/or MS Office. So we stick with something that is inferior because we've never done anything new and besides, everybody else is still doing it too.

    I love expressions of human individuality.
  • I just want to make sure everyone got the joke [cmdrtaco.net]
  • A lot of the "consumer" applications that are being kicked around would probably be served just as well, for a LOT less $$, by SRAM and a watch-battery to back it up. Now I'm no engineer but if one really wanted a gig or more of cheap storage, why not take a gig of SRAM and back it up with a battery? Granted, battery backup is not forever (5 yr max?), but given the price of ram, I would think you could even make the thing completely redundant internally (two batteries and banks of SRAM that compare against each other RAID style)... I would expect the pressure on battery technology and SRAM pricing to move this idea in the direction of workable long before mega-storage write-once PROMs take off. I can't imagine these things being a replacement for CDRs or Floppys or much other than, err, low-storage PROMs.

    Even those silly USB Keychains [slashdot.org] could use such a technique. 2x512MB DIMMs plus a lion or nimh battery to back it up (recharge off the USB bus) would be ~$100. Of course, I may be totally out to lunch here...
    • by puz (222978)
      I've built a battery backed SRAM-based microcomputer in 1979 using chips called 5101, back in the days when "building a PC by yourself" actually meant soldering chips on circuit boards or wire-wrapping them together.

      BTW, you do realize that srams take 6 transistors per cell whereas rom takes one.
  • I wonder if future versions of the chip will come down in price to rival music CDROMs? In that case, we could go to Tower Records and buy a chip of our favorite music. Of course this raises the spectre of even easier content control when everything is totally digital. Imagine a memory chip of Britney in anti-static packaging :)
  • They will be made at Taiwan Semiconductor initially in a 0.25micron process. It will be compatible with Flash.

    Great, so now our chips will have annoying animated ads in them too?

    Sheesh.

  • A few people have been speculating about 3D processors based on this or similar technology. While this is a neat way of building memory, don't get your hopes up for 3D processors any time soon.

    What they've done, according to the article, is deposit several layers of thin-film transistors on top of a more or less standard chip.

    These transistors will be *slow*. That's fine for something you're using to replace flash, but not fine for a processor. The hard problem of building high-quality transistors in a multi-level structure has not been solved.

    The other problem is heat. With a hierarchically-designed memory array, you can make a larger array without power per access going up very much (at the cost of a very small amount of extra delay). This means that packing ten times as much memory into the same chip area won't cause much of a heating problem.

    The core of a microprocessor, on the other hand, is pretty much all active at once (or mostly active). You have calculation results flying to reservation stations everywhere, you have a lot of fully-associative arrays being indexed, and you have a lot of logic churning away. Packing this into a tenth the area would make the used area much, much hotter (remember Newton's law of heating and cooling - you need the same heat flow from a tenth the area, so ten times the heat difference between chip and environment).

    The good news is that you might be able to put the L2 cache in higher layers with technology similar to this and save space that way, but this is a one-time saving, with a performance penalty (until the holy grail of stacked transistor technology is found).

    Still an interesting accomplishment, of course.
  • The real exciting consequence of this article is the proliferation of solid state devices as an AFFORDABLE portable storage media, especially for things you don't mind archiving, like pictures and music.

    Think about it...

    Right now to affordably carry around a bunch of music, we're stuck with CDs and various magnetic media (zip disks, ls-120, etc.). Yes, you can buy the expensive flash based storage media, but it costs way too much to have a whole pile of them to throw in your pocket on your way out the door. And, of course, CDs and magnetic media all require mechanical devices to read them.

    If this comes to fruition at the cheap prices they were implying, we could be buying solid state memory cards in large quantities the same way we used to go and buy floppies. This amount of convenience coupled with not having to worry about every bump jolting some disk reader is definitely a good thing.
  • Samsung has unveiled a gigabit flash (128MB) [samsungelectronics.com] that, unlike this matrix part, is erasable. If that's not enough, you can buy a [irvine-sensors.com]
    2 gigabit flash stack (256 MB) from irvine sensors. [irvine-sensors.com]

    True, these are packaging techniques for more density, and aren't as cool as putting more memory on one die, but don't overlook them: they offer about the same densities. Hopefully, we can eventually combine both techniques, for even greater densities.
  • Years ago one of the April Fool's jokes involving components was known as the WOM chip, or the Write Only Memory. When I saw Write Once, I thought it was a repeat of the old joke.

    The WOM chip was up there with the BD-1 Battery Discharger IC and the Darkness Emitting Diode (DED) which was initialized by applying 110VAC across the anode and cathode.

    A components engineer fabricated a spec sheet for the BD-1 and submitted it to the catalog department, and it actually got published. When customers started requesting samples, the supplier got wise and requested that customers return their databooks. True Story.

    Made me look twice :)

  • Retailers will love this. Now they can make you keep coming back for more. Watch for this to be popular with camera makers, even if a reusable medium is more cost-effective for the end user.

There's a whole WORLD in a mud puddle! -- Doug Clifford

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