Notwithstanding the various candidates for the hard disk technology for the next millennium, it could be that the future of hard disks doesn’t lie in mechanical storage systems at all. Developments in memory technology could mean that solid-state storage becomes a serious alternative to the hard disk. Solid-state disk technology, with data stored in huge banks of high speed RAM, is already available at a high-end server level, but with current RAM it can’t reach the capacities or price points to make it a mainstream proposition. However, researchers for Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Texas Instruments and others are already at work on low-cost, high-capacity RAM chips that could fit the bill. Hitachi and Cambridge University have been working on PLEDM (Phase-state Low Electron-number Drive Memory).

PLEDM uses tiny two-transistor cells instead of the capacitors used in regular DRAM and can be developed to retain memory even with power switched off. It’s expected to become a commercial product around 2005, promising a read/write time of less than 10 ns and a large signal even at low voltage.

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