Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dreams,dreams, dreams...

Every once in a while I come across a component that gets me dreaming. This morning I received a press release about such a component: a wireless EEPROM from STMicroelectronics. The M24LR64-R is a 64 Kbit EEPROM with password protection and a dual interface. It has a standard 400 kHz I2C bus for reading and writing the device, but it also has an ISO 15693 compatible 13.56 MHz contactless interface. You can actually read and write this chip using RFID and near field communications (NFC) techniques without needing to power it. I think that is pretty cool.

Every time when I had to draw a PCB with memory, especially the kind with lots of address and data pins, interfacing in parallel to a processor, I started dreaming about wireless memory. Wouldn’t it be great if you only had to plunk a memory chip on a board, somewhere in the vicinity of the processor and not wire anything? Instead of transmitting over the air you could probably use a copper or some other metal plane as a better communication medium. Or you could make the PCB out of wood or paper and stick the components on it with ecological glue.

Maybe some day wireless will be so cheap that you can have intelligent wireless resistors, capacitors and other parts that could be mesh-networked to build a circuit. You simply put the components in a bag or box, like rice or sugar, and it all would work without wires and soldering. OK, that is a bit far fetched, but who knows what we will have 50 years from now? This RFID EEPROM is definitely a step in the right direction.

This kind of dreaming reminds me of the time when I was a kid and a friend of mine had a Tandy electronics experimentation kit with resistors, transistors and other parts. It used springs for wiring. We would wire at random the parts together while fantasizing about the amazing things our circuit would do. Of course nothing ever happened (and somehow we never smoked anything), but it kept us busy after school. Being nerds we had not yet discovered girls, but I did get a glimpse of his mum naked. Maybe one of our random circuits did work after all…

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