back to article IBM races bits along a nanowire track

IBM scientists have found out how to move bits precisely at an atomic scale along a nanowire, bringing racetrack memory closer to reality. It's glamming up this project by saying a portable racetrack memory box could store a year's worth of movies. Racetrack memory involves the setting of the magnetisation direction of …


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  1. ratfox

    A year's worth of movies

    I would have thought this meant: Enough movies that their length added makes one year... As in the "18 days of music" I have on iTunes

  2. Alan Firminger

    What IBM calls a magnetic shift register

    This was promised as the next big thing in the 70s. It was called magnetic memory, on a chip.

    It was to be a slow memory device, there was latency until the reference came round. But it was potentially useful as permanent memory for machine controllers, except that it never appeared.

  3. dasmo

    A years worth of movies

    means a years worth of movies, ie, the number of seconds in a year times the bit rate. They just mean 365 days of continuous footage.

  4. Ian Michael Gumby
    Thumb Up


    I'd say that Moore's law still holds true, but this is a leap in memory/storage and not CPU horsepower.

    But this along with the HP memresistor and other techs are driving for denser and less fragile storage.

    (fragile? Drop a hard drive from 8 feet on to a concrete floor and see how well it survives.)

    Now if only they can keep the price of manufacturing down. 4-10 TB of a solid state 'disk'?


    By the time this hits the market, you can imagine a Mac book air w better CPUs, graphics, an OLED screen and a 1TB 'drive' all within a titanium/carbon fiber shell.

  5. kenbo0422

    Data capacity

    Try this: movies ( the data required to store them ) played back to back for a year = the amount of storage for one of these devices. NOT the number of movies produced each year, which has nothing to do with converting to data capacity.

  6. RegGuy

    "...a portable racetrack memory box could store a year's worth of movies."

    I notice it doesn't say storing a year's worth of movies worth keeping for a year. Now that *will* take a long time.

  7. JeffyPooh

    Totally wrong!!

    "...a year's worth of movies... ...[As] an approximation we can say 4,000 movies are PRODUCED each year..."

    They obviously didn't mean a year's worth of movie *production*, but meant a year's worth of moving *viewing*. Duh! So "4,000 movies" is totally wrong!

    Let's calculate the correct number of movies using the *viewing* version of a year. If an average movie has (as a guess) a duration of about 2 hours 11 minutes and 24 seconds, then you would require about 11 movies per day, about 77 per week, about 333 per month, or 4,000 per year.

    So the correct number is 4,000, not 4,000. See?

    Merry Christmas.

    1. Ammaross Danan

      Reverse numbering

      Your calcs land you right near 4015, however you failed in that average movie runtimes are not your reverse-engineered approximation of 2hrs, 11min, etc. Average runtime lands right near 97-118min, bringing the actual number closer to 5000 movies.

  8. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

    Is this....

    ....bubble memory for the 21st century?

    I've got an original bubble memory unit in the loft, I think. 1 kilobit, or thereabouts.


  9. Anonymous Coward


    As the bubble memory people found out 30 years ago, serial memory schemes always will lose to random access memory schemes in the marketplace, unless they are vastly cheaper or vastly more durable.

    1. Charles 9

      If I recall...

      ...bubble memory lost out because it was too finicky (warmup times and all that) and offered too little nonvolatile memory for what it offered. Plus it lost out to the hard drive. At least these new techs have a measuring stick in the incumbent flash memory and are supposed to be superior to flash in multiple aspects (access rates, density, longevity, et al), potentially making them fair competition. What I'm waiting for, though, is their first COMMERCIAL applications. Once they actually hit the market, then we can see if they're really ready for prime time.

  10. t_lark


    How irritating! IBM has taken the time to employ some well paid geniuses, provide them with very expensive tools, for them to perform quantum hacking, at atomic precision and at nano scale timings; only to convert the results, at the final step, into a set of units SO incredibly vague and ambiguous that they can hardly be considered quantative units at all.

    PS, for those here believing IBM must of meant the data required to record a whole year, you have been suckered by the PR. They gave you a vague number and you have chosen the largest possible interpretation

  11. gimbal
    Paris Hilton

    What if you don't watch movies very often?

    Does it polarize the spin differently? What about the ... ahh, shad it - spam, spam, spam, bacon, chutney, and spam - and a happy new year, El Reg.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Wires and magnets

    Sounds like they could develop core memory with this, which should be very useful in the mainframe market. oh, wait ...

  13. Ron 6

    What's old is new

    Sounds a lot like the description for vibrating wire memory... Which I've only seen described once (bank in the 70's) in a USAF manual describing data storage that was survivable in a nuclear environment.

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