flash memory

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flash memory

[¦flash ′mem·rē]
(computer science)
A type of electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM). While EPROM is reprogrammed bit-by-bit, flash memory is reprogrammed in blocks, making it faster. It is nonvolatile.

flash memory

flash memory

(1) For Adobe's multimedia authoring and playback system, see Flash.

(2) Flash memory is the most popular non-volatile, rewritable storage chip. Comprised of cells that hold a charge without power, flash memory is extremely durable and used in just about every electronic device, including cameras, smartphones, tablets, music players and USB drives. It is also the storage component in solid state drives (SSDs), which increasingly replace hard drives in computers and servers. All flash memory eventually wears out, but most users will have many years of service (see SSD write cycle). See SSD.

Erase Before Writing
Evolving from the EEPROM chip, flash was invented by Toshiba in the mid-1980s and named after its ability to erase a block of data "in a flash." However, this block erasing is flash memory's peculiarity. Flash memory cells must be erased before they can be written to.

Cells make up pages, and pages make up blocks, but while pages are written, only blocks can be erased. Fortunately, this all takes place within the SSD, which during idle cycles, erases no-longer-used "dirty" blocks so there are always "clean" blocks to write to.

NOR Flash for Execution
NOR flash is used for program execution similar to RAM. Introduced by Intel in 1988, NOR supports one-byte random access, which means a program's instructions are executed directly from the NOR flash the same way computers execute instructions in RAM. Unlike RAM, NOR flash does not require power to hold its content. See computer and RAM.

NAND Flash for Storage
Toshiba developed the less costly NAND flash in 1989. It has denser cells and faster erasing and writing than NOR. For example, in a digital camera, an internal NOR chip holds the software, but the removable memory cards are composed of NAND chips. In a computer, a NAND flash solid state drive (SSD) functions like a hard drive for both program and data storage (see FTL). For more on flash architecture, see EEPROM, NAND flash and MLC. See charge trap flash, USB drive, memory card, SSD, flash BIOS, early memory and future memory chips.


From Spinning Platters to Flash
Slowly but surely, flash-based solid state drives (SSDs) are replacing the computer's hard drives for storage. Not only are SSDs faster, there is no read/write head to accidentally scratch a platter's surface (see head crash). See SSD.







USB Drives "Are" Flash Memory
The ubiquitous USB drives are not much more than a NAND flash memory chip.







Memory Cards Are the Camera's "Film"
NAND flash memory cards such as this 16GB SD card are used in all modern cameras and camcorders. SD cards are very popular, and they can hold up to 512GB. See SD card and memory card.







Disk Pack Storage - 1970s
The 16GB SD card in the digital camera example above holds eight times more storage than all the disk drives in this room full of ICL computers. See disk pack. (Images courtesy of The National Museum of Computing, Milton Keynes, U.K., www.tnmoc.org)







Flash For Sale
This 2014 Micro Center ad highlighted the flash memory products people use every day. Class 10 SD cards means a minimum of 10 MBytes/sec write speed for HD video recording. See SD card classes. (Image courtesy of Micro Center, www.microcenter.com)







The Floating Gate Transistor
Flash memory and EEPROM cells use a transistor with a floating gate that holds a charge. When charged, the action of the control gate is impeded, and the charged/uncharged state determines the 0 or 1 content of the bit.
References in periodicals archive ?
This device's hardware is a combination of control chip, USBKey chip, and flash chip. And the software is composed of Chip Operating System (COS) and Control Software (CS).
"The TwinFlash technology allows us to produce flash chips on the existing equipment used for DRAM manufacturing and consequently to enter a new market with basically no investment in manufacturing equipment."
“The dual-channel flash chip architecture enables us to produce small profile lightweight designs that provide up to 32GB worth of storage; while delivering incredible new price points, and value for our customers.”- Abraham Ma CEO, SuperTalent Technology
The Flash chip is sampling now and will be priced at $29.90 each in 1,000 unit quantities.
It is reported that Toshiba, the largest semiconductor manufacturer in Japan and second-largest supplier of NAND flash chips in the world, has planned to ramp up output of NAND flash chips, while slashing its logic circuit product line, which now comprehends over 6000 different types of logic circuits, by half by the end of March 2013.
Other features include enhanced factory programming - a programming algorithm built into the flash chip to speed device programming - and flexible partition architecture that allows the phone or device to read from one partition while writing or erasing another partition.
According to the CT Micro web site ( http://www.ctmicro.net/), the Intel-clone chip "is a CPU with an embedded north bridge, working on a proprietary socket...with 16Mb memory and a special flash chip." With a low power consumption - quoted at 4W for the 500MHz version - the part is expected to be aimed initially at the mobile systems market, and a die said to be four times smaller than the Pentium III, production costs are also expected to be low.
For NOR Flash chip, the company will introduce 58nm devices by the end of this year.
In September this year, the company rolled out the proprietary Charge-Trapping 4Gb NAND Flash chip it co-developed with Spansion Inc.
According to online market clearinghouse DRAMeXchange, price of 16Gb MLC NAND Flash chip has doubled to US$5.17 a chip from level quoted early this year while price of 32Gb MLC chip has stood firmly at US$7 and price of 64Mb MLC chip is approaching US$14.
MEMXPRO M.2 280 PCIe and U.2 PCIe PT33 series are equipped with original quality flash chips with 10K endurance and up to 2TB of storage capacity.
"Adjusting the pace of increasing production capacities for DRAM and NAND flash chips was discussed at the meeting presided over by Vice Chairman Kim Ki-nam and heads of the chipmaker's overseas branches," one industry source revealed to the South Korean outlet.