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Looking for an easy life?

The search for the Holy Grail of non-volatile memory continues, but a real contender is nvsram, reports Phil Smith.

Say the word 'memory', and most people will immediately think of pc system chips, where the only real consideration is price and availability. But embedded applications – which are too numerous and diverse in nature to list – demand a much more considered approach. In much the same way as animals and plants around the world have evolved to thrive in conditions which are often unique to one location, so memory technologies have been developed to meet the exacting requirements of different, highly specific market or application niches. Take the non-volatile sector: you can choose between flash, eeprom, eprom, rom and nvsram, but closer analysis of the application will mean that these options are rapidly narrowed down.

The non-volatile Holy Grail for systems designers would be a device that was fast, low power, simple to use, cheap and compact. However, life's not like that, and each type of non-volatile memory has a role to play.

Roms are very high density devices but are one-time-programmable. Eproms are used in low cost designs that do not require application reprogramming for software updates or dynamic user data storage. Although they can be reprogrammed, this requires them to be removed from the system and erased under a uv source. Eeproms can be used at lower densities for storing user parameters, updated byte by byte. Higher density versions are often used for storage of software code, uploaded or execution. They are slower than flash devices but easier to use, as they are written to and erased in 128byte page blocks.

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Graham Pitcher

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