9. Solid-State Drives
If you can imagine a world without solid state drives, you live in a very old-mindset. Today, these platter-less wonders have made their way into everything. As I type this, my PC is transferring files from my computer to a flash drive – a form of solid-state memory. The digital camera I picked up this morning employs a proprietary memory card technology – also solid-state. My iPhone relies on a 16 Gb internal solid-state drive to store all my music, games and files.
Everywhere you look, solid-state drives have made a difference in our lives. This amazing new technology is what is going to allow us to finally move away from computers that are so dominated by heat-sinks and fans.
A solid-state drive is fundamentally different from a hard drive in the sense that there are no moving pieces to a solid-state drive. A hard drive disk relies on platters spinning at extremely high RPMs to read and write on. A solid-state drive stores data inside a capacitor inside a circuit. This type of memory, otherwise known as volatile DRAM, is extremely simple to understand. Each bit of memory (not byte, but rather, bit) is stored inside a transistor-capacitor system, therefore, billions or even trillions of these small circuits can be stacked to create the drive. However, DRAM has one major problem, it can’t retain memory if it isn’t powered.
Conventionally today, most Flash Drives and Memory Cards use NAND flash, which is very different from the DRAM. The NAND architecture is all based on voltage differences between transistors connected in series. The chip inside is rather complicated, but suffice it to say that this type of memory is able to retain information long after you’ve unplugged the drive from the computer.
This technology is currently being re-analyzed to be used as a form of perma-RAM. To that end, your PC would no longer have to actually “boot" in the traditional sense. The persistent RAM would be able to store your active memory in the computer after you’ve turned it off. This would effectively turn your PC into an instant-on machine.