Image shows phase-change memory built atop conventional CMOS microchip. Memory cells can be controlled using rows and columns of wires that lead through chip. (Credit: Intel)
Intel and Numonyx announced that they’ve built a new type of ‘phase-change memory’ chip they hope’ll help fulfill technology’s promise for small size and large capacity. Its 64-megabit capacity isn’t momentous on its own–Numonyx announced a 128Mb device in 2006 and Samsung said in Sep it’s producing a 512Mb chip. But what’s significant are two major advances in making the decades-old idea practical. In short, it could combine conventional computer memory’s high speed with flash memory’s low cost, low power demands, and high capacity. Having lots of fast memory on hand could simplify computer hardware and software that today must reckon with a hierarchy of storage technologies that trade off performance for capacity.