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Total Recall - The Past Decade in Memory

Total Recall - The Past Decade in Memory

Timeline: 1998 - 2000

1998 - 2000

  • The dominant memory format in this period was SDRAM or single data rate DRAM and they ranged from the 66MHz to 100MHz range. Intel was to introduce the proprietary RDRAM standard in 1999 with the i820 chipset, due to its licensing agreement with RAMBUS in 1996 that led to Intel buying RAMBUS shares at a discounted rate, along with using RAMBUS on its platform.

    The new RDRAM had an advantage of transferring data on both the rising and falling edge of the clock and this double data transfer meant that it had a higher bandwidth than SDRAM. However, RDRAM was significantly more expensive than SDRAM due to a number of reasons.

    Increased manufacturing cost from its complexity, warmer operation that necessitated memory heat spreaders, (something that would become the norm in modern memory modules) and increased latencies would hinder the adoption of RDRAM, especially since latency turned out to be the bottleneck for applications then, not memory bandwidth.

    The reception from the public was not too welcoming for RAMBUS and RDRAM. This was not helped by a price fixing deal between major memory manufacturers from 1999 to 2002. This cartel included all the big names in the industry, like Infineon, Samsung, Hynix, Micron, etc and while the actual reasons were never revealed, forcing RDRAM out of the market by pricing it out of consumers' reach with relatively inexpensive SDRAM was mooted as a possible reason. In any case, the companies were eventually punished for their actions, though by then, the RAMBUS technology would be dead in the mainstream PC market with even Intel abandoning the technology by 2003.

  • The successor to SDRAM would emerge in 2000 with DDR SDRAM. Doubling the data rate and increased clock frequencies meant that it could be a viable alternative to SDRAM. However, SDRAM had gone up to 133MHz and with only the AMD platform having DDR support, the older standard continued to hold sway in this period.