Monday, January 26, 2009

Digital Equipment Corporation

Digital Equipment Corporation was a pioneering American company in the computer industry. It is often referred to within the computing industry as DEC (this acronym was frequently officially used by Digital itself, but the trademark was always DIGITAL). Its PDP and VAX products were arguably the most popular minicomputers for the scientific and engineering communities during the 1970s and 1980s. DEC was acquired in June 1998 by Compaq, which subsequently merged with Hewlett-Packard in May 2002. As of 2007 its product lines were still produced under the HP name. From 1957 until 1992 its headquarters was located in an old wool mill in Maynard, Massachusetts.

Digital Equipment Corporation should not be confused with Digital Research; the two were unrelated, separate entities; or with Western Digital (despite the fact that they made the LSI-11 chipsets used in Digital Equipment Corporation's low end PDP-11/03 computers). Note, however, that there were Digital Research Laboratories where DEC did its corporate research.

Monday, January 12, 2009

NOR memories

Reading from NOR flash is similar to reading from random-access memory, provided the address and data bus are mapped correctly. Because of this, most microprocessors can use NOR flash memory as execute in place (XIP) memory, meaning that programs stored in NOR flash can be executed directly without the need to first copy the program into RAM. NOR flash may be programmed in a random-access manner similar to reading. Programming changes bits from a logical one to a zero. Bits that are already zero are left unchanged. Erasure must happen a block at a time, and resets all the bits in the erased block back to one. Typical block sizes are 64, 128, or 256 KB.

Bad block management neither is a relatively new feature in NOR chips. In older NOR devices not supporting bad block management, the software or device driver controlling the memory chip must correct for blocks that wear out, or the device will cease to work reliably.

The specific commands used to lock, unlock, program, or erase NOR memories differ for each manufacturer. To avoid needing unique driver software for every device made a special set of CFI commands allow the device to identify itself and its critical operating parameters.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Memory wear

Another limitation is that flash memory has a finite number of erase-write cycles. Most commercially available flash products are guaranteed to withstand around 100,000 write-erase-cycles, before the wear begins to deteriorate the integrity of the storage.[citation needed] The guaranteed cycle count may apply only to block zero (as is the case with TSOP NAND parts), or to all blocks (as in NOR).

This effect is partially offset in some chip firmware or file system drivers by counting the writes and dynamically remapping blocks in order to spread write operations between sectors; this technique is called wear levelling. Another approach is to perform write verification and remapping to spare sectors in case of write failure, a technique called bad block management (BBM).

For portable consumer devices, these wearout management techniques typically extend the life of the flash memory beyond the life of the device itself, and some data loss may be acceptable in these applications. For high reliability data storage, however, it is not advisable to use flash memory that has been through a large number of programming cycles. This limitation does not apply to 'read-only' applications such as thin clients and routers, which are only programmed once or at most a few times during their lifetime.