Wednesday, May 07, 2008

And You're Only Just Realising This?

There comes a point in every man's life when he realises that he is almost certainly never going to create one of the fundamental circuit elements of electronics.

Also: one of the things that struck me as odd about the recent discovery/invention was how old-fashioned a discovery it seems.

We are no longer used to "fundamental" breakthroughs in areas other than the biological sciences, as Charles Stross comments in this interview:

"We seem these days to be seeing new ground-breaking theoretical developments at a rate of one every six months to a year: breakthroughs on the same order as general relativity or quantum theory. (You don't see such breakthroughs routinely in physics, which is a relatively mature field, but if you look into the biological sciences equivalent breakthroughs appear to be coming thick and fast.)"

There is something wonderfully retro-1950s-buttoned-down-white-labcoat-brylcreme- and-horn-rimmed-glasses about the invention/discovery of the "memristor."

Sadly my knowledge of electronics is ever-so-slightly too limited to truly grasp the theoretical implications of this. However the practical implications look extremely interesting:

"Today, most PCs use dynamic random access memory (DRAM) which loses data when the power is turned off.
But a computer built with memristors could allow PCs that start up instantly, laptops that retain sessions after the battery dies, or mobile phones that can last for weeks without needing a charge."

I spend at least ten minutes every morning waiting for my PC to power up at work (yes I know I could agitate for a better PC... but [deleted due to imminent curtailment of career prospects - free speech go hang]).

Imagine all the time you've spent waiting for a PC to power up: adding up all those two to three minute gaps could make a lot of difference in the world. You probably wouldn't even notice power cuts.

Of course my reading of this is that "instantly" means within a second or two and that the computer would retain the current session.

Anyway there's another thing off my list of things to do before I die...

C'est la vie.

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