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racetrack memory

A future storage technology from IBM that moves magnetically-stored data electronically. It comprises millions of U-shaped wires perpendicularly placed on a silicon substrate with the read/write heads located at the bottom of the U. The wires are less than one micron in diameter. Approximately 100 bits of data are magnetically written onto each wire and are moved up and down the wire by applying a positive or negative pulse at one end.

The bits move at more than 300 feet per second, which is considerably faster than the spinning platters of modern-day hard disks.

From RACE to Racetrack
The potential capacity and speed of racetrack memory dwarfs the specifications of even the most advanced hard disks. If racetrack memory ever becomes a commercial product, the comparison to the first Race-named storage device will be even more staggering. In the 1960s, RCA introduced Random Access Card Equipment (RACE), a storage device that moved 4x18" magnetic cards around a raceway (see RACE).

A Single Racetrack
Positive and negative current applied to one end of the racetrack moves the magnetic domains up and down the wire (the racetrack). (Image courtesy of IBM Almaden Research Center,


(1) See race condition and RACE encoding.

(2) (Research And Development of Advanced Communications) A European program of telecommunications R&D introduced in 1987. Over the subsequent 10-year period, more than 100 projects were undertaken.

(3) (Random Access Card Equipment) An early magnetic card mass storage device from RCA that was used with its IBM-compatible Spectra 70 mainframes. The units read and wrote data on a deck of 4x18" cards with a magnetic recording surface. The card was released from the cartridge, passed down a raceway, wrapped around a read/write head and returned. Operating in the late 1960s, the machine jammed frequently, and an operator had to remain nearby to extricate and replace the damaged cards. See CRAM, Data Cell and racetrack memory.

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race conditionrad hardened
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