The annual International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) is a gathering in which the brightest minds in semiconductors come to meet and share the results of their recent research and development efforts. This year the four keynotes at the opening plenary centered on a “Green” outlook, through Storage, Control, Computing, and Energy.
Naturally, as “The Memory Guy,” I focused all of my attention upon the storage keynote, given by SanDisk’s recently-retired CEO Eli Harari. Some of the more interesting points I came away with were:
- In 1987, three years after having invented NOR flash, Toshiba’s Fujio Matsuoka invented NAND flash. This yielded a memory cell very close to the theoretical smallest size of 4f². Matsuoka is an “Out of the box” thinker.
- Nobody thought it would work and looked upon NAND as a “crazy idea.” It was a solution looking for a problem.
- Harari thanks Toshiba for not abandoning NAND. Perseverance in the face of naysayers really does pay off.
- When SanDisk started to use NAND the controller overhead was so great the company was ridiculed by its competitors. The company stood its ground and eventually assisted NAND prevailed.
- The lesson from this is: Stick to your convictions, especially when your gut instinct tells you that you’re right.
- With today’s technology a 64GB microSD card offers about 6TB (that’s right Terabytes) per cubic inch. That means that the entire US Library of Congress can be contained in about 1.5 cubic inches (55cc.)
- The Toshiba/SanDisk joint venture has been one of the most successful in the history of semiconductors, and now supplies roughly 40% of the world’s NAND flash.
The presentation included several historical landmarks I won’t include here and some humorous twists, as well as slides so technical that I didn’t understand them. (I have always been unable to grasp the basic concepts of energy bands.) Most important were the life lessons from an undisputed leader in the industry.
Harari’s keynote had the rapt attention of everyone in the room.