You worked on a project all night and have a power point presentation ready on your computer. You rush to work for that all important online presentation for a client and switch on your most trusted device, only to find it apologizing that it is not able to boot properly and asking if you want to boot in safe mode.
This is not an enjoyable situation to be in. In spite of being most needed and most used, computers have their own issues.
What would we not do to have a computer that does not need booting and starts immediately the minute it is switched on? It took scientists at Hewlett-Packard to eventually find a solution to this problem.
The solution is a simple basic electrical circuit that has the potential to possibly alleviate the need of booting a computer ever again.
The theory of electronics teaches that there are three basic elements of a passive circuit – resistors, capacitors and inductors. Inductors are found in all sorts of electronic circuits, particularly in combination with resistors and capacitors and commonly found in PCs.
A team from Hewlett-Packard went back in time to the 1970s and brought with them, the theory of a fourth element called, “memory resistor or memrister,” from Leon Chua of the University Of California, Berkeley; who had worked out the mathematical equations to prove his theory in those days.
This team, led by Stanley Williams of Hewlett-Packard, director of the quantum science research group, developed a physical example of memristor, which is very different from other electrical devices. Stanley Williams also said, “no combination of resistor, capacitor or inductor will give you that property.”
He cites an example of water flowing through a garden hose. In a normal circuit, the water flows from more than one direction, but in the memory resistor, the hose remembers the direction water (current in this case) flows from and expands in the direction of the flow, to improve the flow. The hose shrinks if current flows through any other direction.
He said, “it remembers both the direction and the amount of charge that flows through it. That is the memory.”
This finding, Hewlett-Packard believes, could lead to a new kind of computer memory that never again needs to be booted. Computers of today, use DRAM (dynamic random access memory,) which is lost when the computer gets turned off and the computer has to retrieve the information back from the hard drive, when the computer is switched on again.
If the new memory is incorporated into computers, it changes the way they remember. This new memory circuit will never lose its place, even when the power is turned off. When the computer is turned on again, it will bring back exactly where the user was before the computer turned off.
Stanley Williams feels that it is essential that people understand this new circuit element, to be able to go further into the world of nanoelectronics, by gaining the ability to build powerful but tiny computers. The memristor, he says could be useful in building highly dense computer memory chips, which use much less power than the current DRAM memory chips.
This is a great application and if proved to work as expected, can make all the difference in the lives of computers and computer users, making booting problems a thing of the past.