Think about it -- state of the art OSes aren't that different from the original BSD or Unix flavors, whereas the flash memory in my iPod is the equivalent of warp drive to someone from 1985! I don't see a factor of 10^6 improvement in anything related to software, whereas we've achieved gains of that scale in processors, storage and networking (bandwidth).
Meanwhile, funding for research in physical science has been flat in real dollars during my scientific career. Go figure!
From the Times, an article about IBM's work on "racetrack" storage, which may be key to the continued exponential growth in storage capacity.
I'm no experimentalist, but what they're doing sounds hard!
The tech world, obsessed with data density, is taking notice because Mr. Parkin has done it before. An I.B.M. research fellow largely unknown outside a small fraternity of physicists, Mr. Parkin puttered for two years in a lab in the early 1990s, trying to find a way to commercialize an odd magnetic effect of quantum mechanics he had observed at supercold temperatures. With the help of a research assistant, he was able to alter the magnetic state of tiny areas of a magnetic data storage disc, making it possible to store and retrieve information in a smaller amount of space. The huge increases in digital storage made possible by giant magnetoresistance, or GMR, made consumer audio and video iPods, as well as Google-style data centers, a reality.
Mr. Parkin’s new approach, referred to as “racetrack memory,” could outpace both solid-state flash memory chips as well as computer hard disks, making it a technology that could transform not only the storage business but the entire computing industry.
“Finally, after all these years, we’re reaching fundamental physics limits,” he said. “Racetrack says we’re going to break those scaling rules by going into the third dimension.”
His idea is to stand billions of ultrafine wire loops around the edge of a silicon chip — hence the name racetrack — and use electric current to slide infinitesimally small magnets up and down along each of the wires to be read and written as digital ones and zeros.
His research group is able to slide the tiny magnets along notched nanowires at speeds greater than 100 meters a second. Since the tiny magnetic domains have to travel only submolecular distances, it is possible to read and write magnetic regions with different polarization as quickly as a single nanosecond, or one billionth of a second — far faster than existing storage technologies.
If the racetrack idea can be made commercial, he will have done what has so far proved impossible — to take microelectronics completely into the third dimension and thus explode the two-dimensional limits of Moore’s Law, the 1965 observation by Gordon E. Moore, a co-founder of Intel, that decrees that the number of transistors on a silicon chip doubles roughly every 18 months.