back to article NEC breakthrough paves way for powerless standy-by modes

NEC has announced the development of a memory circuit element that, it claims, will allow chips to consume no power when they're put in stand-by mode. The circuit component is a non-volatile magnetic flip-flop (MFF) - not a reference to cheap footwear but to a transistor-based circuit of the type assembled by schoolboys to …


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  1. Steven Jones

    And this is a breathrough?

    So what's the big deal here - flash memory is non volatile and provides plenty enough read/write cycles to store the system state on a typical piece of domestic equipment. I suppose this approach might mean that the working memory is non-volatile so it simplifies the design.

    However, some of this misses the point - it's simply not possible to run some of the other elements of a stand-by system, like wake-up triggers (timers, IR receivers, timer displays and so on) without consuming some power. Something like a PVR has to consume some energy just tracking the events it is programmed for. Getting down to sub-watt power envelopes for that isn't exactly difficult.

    However, at least if the power is cut to trivial levels then maybe the hair-shirt individuals that see standby modes as the work of the devil will look at something more important. They've been giving the mistaken impression to the population at large, and some ill-educated media and politico types, that standby makes a significant difference to the energy consumption problems where it is, at most, a very small persentage of the total energy use of the country. There are also easy (techincally speaking) solutions to the challenge. In a variation Tesco's words, every litlle helps, but it helps very little.

  2. Mark
    Thumb Up

    This should send the greenies into a state of ecstatic hysteria

    Sounds good to me, that means that the many devices I have in my house sitting on standby will now be able to use no power and drop my electricity bill.

    I'm sure all the greenies will get very excited as well because there is no doubt a "climate change" angle due to reduced usage of electricity (I'm only worried about my electricity bills though).

    Nice work NEC

  3. Metz


    Does this imply almost-instant hybernate states will be possible on laptops/notbooks/netbooks? Even the possibility of 'sleeping' certain parts of a system and waking them on use (disc controllers, usb controllers, soundcards, etc...)... so no power needed unless they are actively used? This would do wonders for battery duration :)

    Mine's the one with the spare laptop battery in the pocket...

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Is this fullcycle back to magnetic core memory?

    where the cores, through which wires are threaded to store information via the polarity of the magnetic field they contain

  5. A


    We could just use an on/off switch ;)

  6. Dale


    No, because in the commercial implementation they will inevitably find a way to make it not work properly, thereby preserving their upgrade path as they continue to advertise how it "boots faster than any previous version" while neglecting to mention that that statement is only valid for the first week of use before it gradually degrades itself back to the 15 minute start-up and settle-down that we all know and love.

  7. Henry Cobb

    Greened back to the future

    Note that the article talks about two types of MRAM, because one type can be made as small as current memory and a different type can be made as fast as current memory.

    Theoretically, given lots and lots of expensive research.

    And to top it all, this computer will only save energy over current computers when the current is switched off.

    So this is a return to the core memory days of computers that were big, slow, expensive and not used all that often.


    The overlords of green correctness may take away our automobiles but they shall never take away our CPUs!

  8. DutchOven

    Oh really?

    The immediate question is: if my phone is on standby and consuming no power then how is it capable of detecting an incoming call?

    If this is going to be used in DVDs etc then great. They use next to no power anyway.

    Now, some large corporations are prepared to keep their signs on all night (and all the lights on inside too). The Tesco at the end of my street is particularly good at this.

    Even if my electricity consumption was to be reduced 99%, looking out the window at night would be enough to remind me that we're still f*cking the planet up becase most of us a retards.

  9. Mark


    Assuming this is a large store, you will probably find that the inside lights are left on because they have people working all night to restock the shelves so that the shop is nice and full when you go in to grab some groceries in the morning.....

    This tech won't be useful for everything, i'm thinking mainly household electrical goods, and/or computers. You could use a piezo crystal to provide a electrical signal to trigger the wakeup, or in the case of a remote control utilise some of the RFID technology to energise the circuit and trigger a wakeup.

    Yes things like PVR's will probably not be suitable items to use this tech on if they are tracking recording times, but nobody said this was a panacea for everything....

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm... I wonder?

    As in

    If so I'd love to see what the dev labs are piloting. it must be quite awesome!

  11. Christian Berger

    Will the OSes support it?

    Hmm, will the OSes support it. I mean it would still have to power down all devices and set them up again.

    On laptops it won't do much good for the battery as there the display already takes a big part of the power requirement.

  12. Richard Neill

    You obviously don't recollect your schooldays so well!

    > flip-flop ... a transistor-based circuit of the type assembled by schoolboys to make two

    > lightbulbs flash alternately

    No! A flip flop is a simple (bi-stable) memory device, which can store 1 bit of information. To make it oscillate automatically, you must add two capacitors. Then you have an astable multivibrator.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    As in Tellybox Flash?

    SoC's (apologies for the redundant apostrophe but ...) rapid on/off/standby tellyboxes?

  14. Richard Freeman
    Thumb Up

    @ Steve Jones

    The issue with Flash is that the write cycle is too slow for use as Regular memory.

    It sounds like this memory is going to be fast enough to use as Regular computer memory so Standby mode will not need to power the memory and as the Greenies say 'a milliwatt-hour saved is one less picogram of CO2 in the atmosphere'....

    No seriously - the less that needs to be powered up when a computer is in standby the smaller the battery that is needed and think about being able to turn your computer on and not having to wait interminably for it to boot up (because it is still booted up).

  15. Graham

    I think what you're all missing here is...

    In "traditional" computer memory, each bit has to be topped up with charge every so often in order to retain what it stores. If this magnetised memory doesn't need this then it will save power even when the device is on. Just because the memory has no power running through it doesn't make it unusable - the memory controller being on/off defines that.

    What this means is that, yes, your phone in standby (what I think you meant here was sitting idle in your pocket, which is not what the article is refering to, if I'm correct) can receive a call because the GSM modem (is that the right term? I'm no telecoms expert) will still have power running through it and can send interrupts just the same when a call arrives.

    Whist this doesn't mean great things for battery life of a computer whilst it is on (as was rightly said, the screen takes most of that) the battery life of the computer won't discharge whilst it is in standby mode (mine takes about a day to go flat like this, so useful if you accidentally leave it on overnight). Also, whilst it may not be a great saving of power for your single computer, think about how many computers there are out there and if they are all slowly replaced by computers that don't have to "top up" the charge in their memory every few nanoseconds then THAT will be a considerable saving.

  16. David Patter

    Powerless Standby Modes.and non-volatile Memory

    Surely no only I remember CORE MEMORY ??

    We used to power down NAVDAC in 1966, and on Power-Up, the core memory remembered everything it had when powered down. Of course, it was a serial, NAND gate based, discrete component computer, maintained to component level ! VERY old !

    MARDAN on the other hand had RECIRCULATING REGISTERS on the HDD. They too could be made to hold unchanged content through a power-down. Same generation of computer, though.

    A bit like, but simpler than writing memory to a boot- like sector on the HDD (Perhaps the one after the boot sector).

    I thought Laptops already did this ??

    I see the children are re-inventing the wheel again !!


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