In recent years flash memory has become quite popular. This is most evident in pen drives and flash memory cards. These devices are usually used for the temporary storage or transfer of data and in certain products like cell phones and digital cameras. Is the time coming for a computer that has a hard drive that uses this type of data storage, a flash memory PC?
In order to understand what a flash memory PC would be, you will need to know exactly what this type of memory is and how it works. Flash memory, or electronically erasable programmable read only memory, consists of a grid of columns and a cell that has two transistors at each end. These transistors are separated by a layer of oxide. The transistors are known as the control gate and the floating gate. The floating gate can only work if it is connected to the control gate. When these two are linked the cell’s value is 1. When they disconnect the value becomes 0. I know this all seems very complicated, basically because it is.
Aside from the actual make up of flash memory, the only thing that separates it from traditional information storage, such as, hard drives is the fact that flash memory does not require an electrical current to retain data. This is something that would make a flash memory PC invaluable. The ability to hold on to data without electricity is only one of the advantages to using flash memory. This type of memory, which is typically found in most memory cards can withstand much higher temperatures than other forms of data storage. Flash memory is also less easily corrupted due to any type of physical damage. If submerged under water, a flash memory PC would not be destroyed as long as it did not have a power source attached to it at the time.
A flash memory PC would also be able to be erased and rewritten at much faster speeds than a typical hard drive. Flash drives can be erased in literally seconds but in order to do this the cell must be completely erased. This is the only problem that one would face if attempting to build a flash memory PC. The only solution to this problem would be not to create a flash memory hard drive but to create a hard drive made up of multiple flash memory units. This would be the only way that you would be able to erase certain things without loosing everything.
It is true that flash memory is great when used in certain ways. If you are looking to use a USB drive to temporarily store a few music files or pictures, then flash memory is the way to go. If you are going to use a memory stick to transfer files from one PC to the next, this type of data storage device is perfect. Flash memory is convenient, cheap and easy to use. There is one reason why a flash memory PC would virtually be impossible to make, at least with today’s technology.
The biggest issue with using flash memory to store important data for prolonged periods of time is that it is a bit unreliable. How many times do you download various files on to your computer and then delete them. How often is information being entered into and then leaving your PC. The flash memory that is used in flash cards and thumb drives can only be erased and rewritten so many times before the flash memory can no longer hold any information. The primary block of a flash memory device is only guaranteed to work up to 100,000 uses and the other blocks are not guaranteed at all. This doesn’t mean that these blocks will be void after a use or two. After all, I have used flash memory for quite some time now and have never had a problem. This does mean, however, that flash memory would not be very reliable when it came to running an operating system, like with a flash memory PC.
Although I am sure that some time very soon flash technology will grow to the point where the creation of a flash memory PC would be very possible, for now this form of data storage is best used for short term and simple projects.