How would you like your PC to turn on and off instantly? If you are familiar with MS Windows, you could call this instant hibernation. There would be no Shutdownsequence to wait on. When you turn it back on, your PC will be exactly as you left it. There would be no boot time, and no need to restart applications.
Instant on-off has been sort of a Holy Grail for years. It can be done now, but it requires the use of SSDs (Solid State Drives based on flash memory). SSDs are about 40 times more expensive than regular hard disks, and fail much faster. In other words, instant on-off is not for the average consumer yet.
That could change completely by 2020, and it’s looking like SSDs will end up on the scrap heap of history.
The Memristor memory and logic
In 1971, an electronics guru, Dr. Leon Chua, theorized that we were missing a passive circuit element. All electronic devices today are based on the properties of three electronic elements, the resistor, capacitor, and inductor.
Dr. Chua mathematically invented the Memristor. It’s unique properties allow it to remember the last current that flowed through it. In other words, it’s perfect for making memory devices.
It took 37 years for someone to finally discover the right combination of materials that duplicated the function of a memristor. In 2008, HP Labs announced the development of memristor devices.
HP also hopes to offer memristor devices with storage densities of about 20 gigabytes per square centimeter in 2013. A few years later, they predict that we’ll have a petabit (125 terabytes) of non-volatile memory in a square centimeter. Some experimental results show that the devices can switch in nano-seconds and last a very long time, unlike current flash or hard disks.
Memory isn’t the only function that memristors could replace. Since memristors can remember the linear charge that passes through them, they can do far more than store information as simple zeros or ones, like today’s digital circuits. These electronic components can work like the neurons in our brains.
Once the bugs get worked out, will intelligent machines be far off? R.S. Williams at HP, is already working on designs for a centimeter sized chip that would have as many simulated neurons as a cat’s brain has. It sounds like we can expect the technological Singularity to arrive sooner than some expected.