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Digital Memory's Evolution

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Terry.Bollinger
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Cold to the Core
Terry.Bollinger   10/15/2013 1:52:45 PM
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Sigh. Doing this makes me feel so... old!

Pardon the nitpick, but just to keep a whole generation of young readers from getting it wrong: It's "core storage," not "cold storage."

The phase is a reference to the little rings or "cores" that stored a "0" by magnetizing in one direction (e.g. clockwise) and a "1" in the other. And yes, a ring is not really a core, so to nitpick on history also, it really should have been called "ring storage."

The phrase mostly died away in the late 1970s and early 1980s as seminductor memory took over, then resurfaced in a most peculiar fashion as users of the then-new PCs started to refer to the non-magnetic storage of their PCs as "core storage" in the sense of "the fast memory at the center or core of my PC."

That too died away after a few years, replaced largely by the acronym RAM, which is actually a bit too generic since it technically includes any directly accessible memory, including, well, core.

Seeing "core" mutate now into "cold" is interesting. But in terms of evolutionary selection this particular mutation leaves me, er, cold. It really does have a nice ring to it, but in the wrong direction, since it implies storage (e.g. archival) that isn't used much. For the "main memory" (by which I mean the fastest and most directly accessible) of a computing device, "hot" might be a lot more apt, though. It is after all the storage that changes most quickly, and for that matter is quite literally most heat-generating form of memory (which pales in magnitude next to processing heat, of course).

So my counter offer: Let's create a spectrum! Hot memory, represented by blue, is the fastest moving, fastest changing, most heat-producing memory, with on-chip registers being right at the edge of ultraviolet. (Engineers, welders, laser specialists, and astronomers all know that blue means hot and red means cool, despite those silly faucets labels that have confused me my entire life.)

Cold memory, represented by red, is the slowest, least often changed, and least often accessed form of memory, what we often call archival storage.

And of course, hot memory is costly and must be used sparingly, while cold memory is much cheaper and far more plentiful. The goal of a well-designed cache architecture is to make all memory look nice and warm, even if the vast majority of it is in reality cold almost to the point of being frozen solid.

Caleb Kraft
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Re: People make predictions based on what they know
Caleb Kraft   10/15/2013 9:12:37 AM
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Going to the moon is incredibly expensive and what is the payoff? Personally I think the payoff is that we can push forward to begin to build ships outside of earth's orbit, but unfortunately the country we live in doesn't hold that as a priority. I believe there are still a few other moderately healthy space programs out there though.

JeremySCook
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Re: People make predictions based on what they know
JeremySCook   10/14/2013 5:15:17 PM
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Yeah, or that we would stop going to the moon...  I guess it takes a great rival (USSR in this case) to get a nation to do really incredible things.

Bert22306
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CEO
People make predictions based on what they know
Bert22306   10/14/2013 4:28:13 PM
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Yes, it's odd that we don't have a moon base by now. Who'd a thunk, back in 1969, that almost half a century later, we'd still not have been anywhere but the short moon missions?

Flying cars probably never made any sense. Still, it's pretty hard to make accurate predictions, because people have a way of predicting only, at best, improvements to things that exist in their world today. So for instance, if we could fly, even before the days of heavier-than-air craft, then we could dream of "flying to the stars." Seems like a natural progression.

On the other hand, the side-effects of the information revolution, a revolution required to make any technological advancement, turned out to be more important to the average joe than the original purpose (mostly military and space). Hard to have predicted that one!

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