magnetic bubble memory

Magnetic Bubble Memory Takes the 1970s by Storm

Forever Knowing Bubbles

In the 1970s magnetic bubble memory promised to be alternative to the bulky, expensive memories that came before it. Followers of current spintronic technology trends will be familiar with many of its promises: low-power, non-volatility and the ability to carry out both logic and memory operations.

Unfortunately these promises were never really achieved as developments in other technology took over.

Read about the excitement generated by this new memory in New Scientist, April 1973.

Remembering the Future

Historically, magnetic materials played an important role in computer memory. Fast, random access memory was achieved using ferrite magnetic core memory, while slower, cheaper storage was achieved by storing data on magnetic drums, disks or tapes. Magnetic bubble memory promised to bridge the gap between these memories by being cheap, compact and reliable.

Much of the early work into bubble memory was carried out by IBM, who went on to develop the racetrack memory concept, which continues to promises dramatic improvements in cost, density and speed.

The Bubble Bursts

For all its promises and impressive technology, bubble memory was never a huge commercial success. Improvements to hard disk drives, helped by that pillar of spintronics: anisotropic magnetoresistance, ended its mass-market appeal.

Bubble memory did manage to achieve some success in more niche applications which required greater reliability than could be provided by hard drives, but even here it was eventually wiped out by FLASH memory.

I wonder if the demise of this former poster child of magnetic memory can tell us anything about the current trends in spintronic memory.

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