back to article HP breakthrough to hasten flash memory's demise?

HP scientists have made a breakthrough in the development of memristors, a fundamental circuit type that looks increasingly likely to replace NAND flash and possibly DRAM. Essentially, they've figured out the physical and chemical mechanisms that make memristors work. "We were on a path where we would have had something that …


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  1. bazza Silver badge

    Oh how easy it is to forget

    Much as I recall with annoyance that HP didn't ship W2k drivers for the Deskjet I'd bought (ain't bought HP since on principle), that they divested themselves of what is now Agilent thus discarding their soul, that they acquired then binned most of DECs finest and ditched their own processor line too, that a once fine company reduced itself to little more than a commodity x86 box maker with an expensive line of ink and toner on the side, it's nice to see that there remains at least a spark creativity.

    If HP can pull this off then I might even cheer, and I'll probably be grateful one way or another. It will be an enourmous break through. If it works how can it fail to take over from almost every non-volatile storage mechanism that mankind currently has? That's an enourmous market, and it could all belong to HP in years to come.

    But you have to wonder why HP's management decided over the years that all that R&D heritage and expertise wasn't worth it. Look at IBM - there's a company that's still not afraid to spend on fundamental R&D, and look at how well they do. If HP can do this with whatever's left in their R&D budget, what might they have achieved if they'd kept all that they'd once had?

    Bean counters. Bastards.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      HP announces Memristor update ...

      Just download memristor_4Tb_update_2011_basic.exe - it's only a 250Mb exe file - the bastards! Of course, once you try to install it the update will crash with the error message "This version in a different version to the installed version"

      I weep when I think about the HP that used to make test gear and calculators ...

      1. Doug Glass

        Oh yeah ...

        ... I weep over typewriters, wind up watches, Wang word processors and Edsel automobiles.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      agree 100%

      memristors and WebOS ... come on HP, it's time to put Turd and Fire-rina behind you.

    3. Doug Glass

      You just got to hate ...

      ... those bastard bean counters when you they show IT the door during a reduction in force.

    4. Graham Wilson

      @bazza--Correct, & it'll take more than a magnanimous gift of memristors to get back its reputation.

      "Much as I recall with annoyance that HP didn't ship W2k drivers for the Deskjet I'd bought (ain't bought HP since on principle),..."

      Correct, HP also did the same with its premium LaserJets 4300, 4250, 4350 and CM1017 etc. Moreover, HP has deliberately engineered its printers (and other products) so that in case of service or obsolescence, parts from one device cannot be exchanged with another. For example, the duplexer from a HP 4300 printer fits perfectly on a 4250 but will not work as it's been deliberately 'wired' not to be interchangeable, the same also with frequently-failing heat fusers. The result is that we've unnecessary and increasing landfill with printers whose life could be much, much longer.

      This is what happens when a company ditches its engineers in favour of bean counters and useless marketing types, and HP is probably the best example of this practice around anywhere. To make matters worse, hardly any customers complain about such practices--not even the Greenies (after all, they only hug whales and trees--not printers). Seems, today, we've all too much money to care.

      "...that they divested themselves of what is now Agilent thus discarding their soul, that they acquired then binned most of DECs finest and ditched their own processor line too,..."

      Correct again, I remember the days of 'Rolls-Royce'-type spectrum analysers and other such world-class test and measurement equipment from HP. It's a tragedy that a once excellent company has gone to the dogs (anyway, certainly so ethically speaking). Again, it's the handiwork of sleazy bean counters and their ilk (as is so often the case these days with large corporations).

      Both Hewlett and Packard must be rotating in their graves at incandescent speed. It'll take more than a magnanimous gift of the memristor to the world for HP to get back its once highly-prized reputation.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        @Graham Wilson - an old fogey like me?

        "I remember the days of 'Rolls-Royce'-type spectrum analysers and other such world-class test and measurement equipment from HP"

        Ah yes, still got some truly ancient (nearly 30 years old) HP test gear in the lab, still in regular use, still perfectly OK. Still like Agilent stuff even if it is all just PCs in a funny box with some funny hardware, an ADC and some funny software.

        Once had a battle with the bean counters keen to divest themselves of equipment that had long since 'depreciated'. It was tempting to 'bin' (well, hide) them, let them buy new ones (from Agilent, probably), and then restore the old ones from their hiding place and have twice the kit.

        It was difficult to get them to realise that buying new ones could never ever be cheaper than just keeping the ones we'd already got, no matter how cleverly they stacked up their capital items budgets. Won in the end.

        Bean counters of the world, take heed; spending no money really is cheaper than spending some money. Message ends. Message restarts; not all 'electronics equipment' is worthless in three years time. Message ends again. Oh, and sometimes the engineers do have good ideas as to how money should be spent.

  2. SteelVenom

    So how did they...

    So HP has known that they work but don't know how they work?

    How do you know something works if you can't create it? My guess is this is of extra-terrestrial origins. They are reverse engineering the computers from UFO's and have finally figured out what makes them tick.

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      WW2, stethescope, khaki, etc.

      If it's ticking, you have to runnnnnnnn awayyyyyyyyyyyy

    2. Doug Glass


      "Pure F***king Magic. The world is full of thing we can make use of but lack any real understanding of the utterly basic, lowest level cause of it working: nuclear power plants, antennas, human self awareness and etc.

  3. Robert E A Harvey

    "cat brain ... simpler than a human brain"

    Obviously written by someone who doesn't have a cat.

  4. ratfox

    Sometimes I feel proud of the human race...

    Quick think of all the military applications this will be used for!

    ...Ahhh, much better.

  5. Michael Xion
    Thumb Up

    Cyber kitty overlords?

    These then would be the minions of our existing furry kitten overlords. And yes, I own (am owned) by two cats.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      You mean...

      That those visionaries The Goodies might have been on the right lines with Kitten Kong?


    2. Bob H


      Without thumbs their mission will be fruitless!

    3. bazza Silver badge

      @Michael Xion - Staff?

      Who was it that said that cats don't have owners, they merely have staff to look after them? All too true!

  6. Gary F

    5 years away?

    Good, but sounds like it's 5 years away from producing SSD alternative products piled high on shop shelves. I like boffins. Well done.

    1. Doug Glass

      Tha's business ...

      Grow the business.

      Enhance stockholder equity.

      Increase the bottom line.

      That's business. Everything else is a charity or some other non-profit undertaking. Or socialistic.

  7. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    They'll know they've got the cat's brain right

    when they accidentally drop it and it lands on its feet.

  8. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    There is some confusion going on here, my dear lad...

    ...namely, between the theoretical concept of the "memristor" and a physical implementation of the same.

    The theoretical concept, which can be elegantly summarized in a differential equation that I hope you are all aware of, is being alluded to _here_:

    "Memristors are the fourth fundamental type of passive circuitry"

    Whereas a physical implementation of a particular type is being referred to _here_:

    "The core advantage of memristors is that they can theoretically achieve speeds 10 times that of flash at one-tenth the power budget per cell."

    I'm sure you could build memristors out of huge power-hungry electronic valves and cabling using the "fat finger" gauge [exercise left for the student]. While these would clearly be *memristors* inasmuch as they would obey the differential equation mentioned earlier, they would have none of the advantages of the physical realization performed by one "HP".

    In the same way, you can have a condenser that is a few nanometers across or one that stands in the corner of the room, accumulating a monstrous charge and covered in warning signs. Both are condensers, but of different kind, of different implementation and of different use.

  9. overloaded

    Write Cycles

    The one thing that puts me off from current SSD technology right now is the limited write cycles of the nand flash, once they sort that issue out I'd have no problems adopting to SSDs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not to worry

      Assuming a small 64 GB drive and low 5000 cycle longevity, you can write 320000 GB to the drive before it wears out.

      If you write 10 GB/day (which is a LOT for an average user) the drive will last 87 years before the flash wears out.

      In other words, you have nothing to worry about.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      If the price drops enough then the limited write cycles dont matter. Just raid them and change them as they fail. If more tech comes onto the market that might compete with SSD then either the prices will drop or the tech will become obsolete.

  10. Muckminded


    It is rare that a product appears to have nothing but upside. Usually, it's something like "It gives you enormous strength, but your pecker falls off". So, yeah, I'll take the non-sterilizing, happy tech, that may also be capable of making a cat that I can turn off.

    1. Doug Glass

      Don't we all wish ...

      ... we could have our pussy switchable.

      1. Alan Esworthy
        Thumb Up

        Yes, indeed...

        ...and particularly nice that switching reduces resistance by 10**3.

  11. Neoc

    I, for one, ...

    ... would like to be the first to welcome our future cyber-kitty overlords. Nyan!

    1. Tom 13

      You are too late foolish one.

      The one who was the first to welcome our kitty overlords is preserved in an ancient tomb in Mesopotamia.

  12. Gavin McMenemy

    Modelled Cat Brains

    Someone's been reading Accelerando.

  13. Rob Daglish

    Simple Cats

    Hmm. My cats need to do the following:

    1) Look "Cute" to get attention.

    2) Sleep

    3) Work out how to wind the dog up

    4) Sleep

    5) Miaow at the cupboard with the food in for us to feed them

    6) Sleep

    7) Miaow at the window for us to let them in/out

    8) Sleep

    Simple they may be, stupid they ain't... what's that 8 hour working day thing you keep trying to explain?

  14. DutchP

    with all the quantum mechanics involved...

    i suppose that would be schroedinger's cat, then

    1. Tom 13

      I think so, but

      I am not certain...

      1. nyelvmark

        Me neither.

        I guess we won't know until we can open the box and look inside.

  15. me n u
    Thumb Up

    HP printers?

    You gotta be kidding, right? I hope you IT people aren't buying that crap! For personal use, I only use Brother (and I'm an American) because the price is right and the parts are interchangeable across a lot of the product line. The printers last a long time as well. I still have and use an HL645!

    And check the cost of consumables before buying the printers!

    I guess for corporate use-there's still Xerox.

    And Agilent holds the "soul" of the old HP. Still a very fine company.

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