Analysis: the future of the PC revealed
Ultra-small PCs that fit on a single chip. Batteries that recharge without cables. TVs that respond to your every gesture. These and other developing technologies will fundamentally change the way you think about and use your computer. PC Advisor looks at the technology of tomorrow.
A groundbreaking new circuit
Since the dawn of electronics, we've had only three types of circuit components – resistors, inductors and capacitors.
Back in 1971, however, Berkeley researcher Leon Chua theorised the possibility of a fourth type, one that would be able to measure the flow of electric current: the memristor. An entire 37 years later, HP has built one.
What is it?
As its descriptive name implies, the memristor can 'remember' how much current has passed through it. By alternating the amount of current that passes through it, a memristor can also become a one-element circuit component with unique properties.
Most notably, it can save its electronic state even when the current is turned off, making it a great candidate to replace flash memory.
Memristors will theoretically be cheaper and much faster than flash memory. They will allow far greater memory densities. They could also replace RAM chips as we know them, so that, after you turn off your computer, it will remember exactly what it was doing when you turn it back on and return to work instantly.
This cost reduction and consolidation of components may lead to affordable, solid-state computers that fit in your pocket and run many times faster than today's PCs.
One day the memristor could spawn a whole new type of computer, thanks to its ability to remember a range of electrical states rather than the simplistic 'on' and 'off' states that today's digital processors recognise.
By working with a dynamic range of data states in an analogue mode, memristor-based computers could be capable of far more complex tasks than just shuttling ones and zeroes around.
When is it coming?
Researchers say no real barrier prevents the immediate implementation of the memristor in circuitry – it's up to manufacturers to push products through to commercial reality.
Memristors made to replace flash memory (at a lower cost and lower power consumption) will probably appear first; HP's goal is to offer them by 2012.
Beyond that, memristors are likely to replace both DRAM and hard disks by 2015, give or take a year or so. Memristor-based analogue computers, however, may take at least 20 years to materialise.
NEXT PAGE: 32-core computing
- Analysis: the future of the PC revealed
- A groundbreaking new circuit
- 32-core computing
- 64bit computing with more RAM
- Windows 7 – inevitably
- SuperSpeed USB
- Goodbye graphics cards
- Recharge without wires
- Gesture recognition
- Curtains for DRM
- The Google PC
- Your fingers do even more walking
- Mobile-phone ticketing
- Location, location, location