Silicon Insider: The Persistence of Memory

Memory Could Outpace Logic

For one thing, it is very possible that we are entering into an era where logic, not memory, will become the limiting factor in progress. Intel's recent announcement that it would be changing the architecture of its new CPU chips from single to multiple processors suggests a growing realization that the age of big, powerful, monolithic chips is over, the cost of production becoming too expensive; to be replaced by less powerful, but cheaper and more flexible chips. In other words, in the blistering game of chicken between logic and memory, it may be that the richer, flashier and more famous competitor has blinked first. That makes the miracle of memory even greater.

There is something else as well: a terabit of memory on a single disk seems like a milestone, a passageway into a whole new relationship between the digital world and the natural world. With a trillion bits to play with, and enough processors to digest them, you can model a natural event almost down to the atoms and photons, to the point where the difference between reality and simulation is indecipherable to the human eye -- and suddenly the notion of reality as information (and vice versa) comes to everyday life. The possibilities (and opportunities) from that are literally infinite.

More and more, it looks like it will be the memory guys who will get us there. While we have been paying attention to the flashier semiconductor folks, it may just be the forgotten memory mechanics, the guys with the oily hands and smudged lab coats, who win the race after all.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michael S. Malone, once called “the Boswell of Silicon Valley,” most recently was editor at large of Forbes ASAP magazine. He has covered the Silicon Valley and high-tech for more than 20 years, beginning with the San Jose Mercury-News as the nation's first daily high-tech reporter. His articles and editorials have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and Fortune, and for two years he was a columnist for The New York Times. He has hosted two national PBS shows: "Malone," a half-hour interview program that ran for nine years, and in 2001, a 16-part interview series called "Betting It All: The Entrepreneurs." Malone is best known as the author of a dozen books. His latest book, a collection of his best newspaper and magazine writings, is called "The Valley of Heart's Delight."

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