In the 1980s, Fuijo Masuoka invented flash memory while working for Toshiba. According to the Japanese multinational, the name ‘flash’ was suggested by Masuoka’s colleague, Shoji Ariizumi, who likened the erasure process of memory to a flash on a camera.
Developed from EEPROM (electrically erasable programmable read-only memory), Masuoka and colleagues presented the invention at the IEEE 1984 International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) held in San Francisco. Following Toshiba’s introduction of the technology to market in 1984, chip giant Intel was one of the first companies to see the potential of flash technology and released the first commercial flash chip in 1988.
How it works
Although derived and developed from EEPROM, flash is memory which is non-volatile. This means memory is still stored even if there is no power to the system. Memory that ‘forgets’ when there is no power is called Random Access Memory. In contrast to EEPROM, flash erases whole blocks of data at a time, rather than per byte.
Non-volatile memory is also synonymous with solid-state storage – another moniker attributed to flash. Solid-state storage is computer storage which involves no moving mechanical parts like you would see in a hard drive- instead storing and retrieving digital information using only electronic circuits.
Data is stored using electricity in surface-mounted chips on a PCB, or Printed Circuit Board, with the lack of moving parts making such a storage system ideal for more rugged applications, as well as reducing power consumption.
Data is stored via an array of memory cells made from floating-gate transistors. These floating-gate transistors, or memory cells, are similar to a standard MOSFET, but have two gates instead of one. Single-level cell (SLC) devices store one bit of information per cell, whereas multi-level cell (MLC) devices and triple-cell devices, can store more than one bit of information per cell.
A flash memory cell