Even if you haven't, you may soon be using one. Scientists at Hewlett-Packard have just built the first one - and it looks very interesting. According to a news report:
Basic electronics theory teaches that there are three fundamental elements of a passive circuit - resistors, capacitors and inductors.
But in the 1970s, Leon Chua of the University of California at Berkeley, theorised there should be a fourth called a memory resistor, or memristor, for short, and he worked out the mathematical equations to prove it.
Now, a team at Hewlett-Packard led by Stanley Williams has proven that 'memristance' exists. They developed a mathematical model and a physical example of a memristor, which they describe in the journal Nature.
. . .
Williams likens the property to water flowing through a garden hose. In a regular circuit, the water flows from more than one direction.
But in a memory resistor, the hose remembers what direction the water (or current) is flowing from, and it expands in that direction to improve the flow. If water or current flows from the other direction, the hose shrinks.
"It remembers both the direction and the amount of charge that flows through it. ... That is the memory," Williams said.
The discovery is more than an academic pursuit for Williams, who said the finding could lead a new kind of computer memory that would never need booting up.
"If you turn on your computer it will come up instantly where it was when you turned it off. That is a very interesting potential application, and one that is very realistic," Williams said.
I don't know so much about instant-boot computers. That's a 'nice to have', but hardly an essential. However, think about this thing in artificial intelligence systems. I programmed some primitive AI systems back in the 1980's. The idea was to have software - a program - that could assess and judge conditions and apply a solution in the real world. If one could have electronic components that have a 'memory', as this memristor seems to have, couldn't one associate AI software with hardware that also learns, or remembers, past states?
This could be very, very interesting for robotics. Watch this space.