1962: Thin-film memory commercially available

Univac 1107 Thin-Film Memory computer announced

In the early 1960s thin film memory arrays offered significantly faster performance than mainstream magnetic core technology. Vacuum-deposited dots of ferromagnetic alloy material on glass substrates were overlaid with a multilayer grid of connecting wires that served as drive and sense lines similar to those of a magnetic core array. Sperry Rand developed the technology under a National Security Agency contract and announced its commercial availability in the Univac 1107 Thin-Film Memory Computer in 1962. In this application a 128-word thin-film general register stack achieved a cycle time of 600 nanoseconds compared to 4 microseconds of the 16,384 36-bit word main memory. The Univac design and others by RCA and Hughes also served in airborne computer applications.

In 1968, IBM announced the formal acceptance of two System/360 Model 95 super-speed computers. Equipped with “ultra-high-speed thin-film memories,” the Model 95 incorporated “over a million characters (bytes) of information stored on magnetic spots four millionths of an inch thick” in a cache memory that worked together with four megabytes of core. With an access time of 67 nanoseconds, this was claimed to be the fastest, large-scale memory in user operation. This same machine also employed IBM’s first monolithic integrated circuit (IC) memory, the SP95 16-bit, system-protect array.

IBM built a new plant at Essex Junction near Burlington, Vermont to fabricate thin-film memory devices. When semiconductor technology surpassed the performance and cost of thin-film, the facility was converted to high volume manufacturing of ICs. The company’s investment in thin-film research paid dividends in 1979 when the technology was adapted to produce head structures for the IBM Model 3370 disk drive, replacing heads based on solid ferrite technology.

  • “Thin-Film Memory Commercially Available” Electronic Design (Dec. 21, 1960) p.12
  • Proebster, W.E. “The design of a high-speed thin-magnetic-film memory” Solid-State Circuits Conference. Digest of Technical Papers. IEEE International (1962) pp. 38 – 39
  • Hansen, Jay M., May, Michael. “Thin Film Nondestructive Memory” U.S. Patent 3448438 (Filed: 03/19/1965 Issued: 06/03/1969)
  • Kohn, G. ; Jutzi, W. ; Mohr, Th. ; Seitzer, D. “A Very-High-Speed, Nondestructive-Read Magnetic Film Memory” IBM Journal of Research and Development (Vol: 11, No: 2 March 1967) pp. 162-168
  • Kriessman, C.J. ; Matcovich, T.J. ; Flannery, W.E. “Low-power thin-film memory” Communication and Electronics, IEEE Transactions on (Vol: 83, No: 74 1964) pp: 519 – 524
  • Matcovich, T.J. ; et. al. “A magnetic, thin-film, integrated circuit memory system” Magnetics, IEEE Transactions on (Vol: 3, No: 1 1967) pp. 76 - 83
  • “Oral-History: Walter Proebster” Interview # 172 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (July 1, 1993) (Retrieved on 5.15.15 from: http://ethw.org/Oral-History:Walter_Proebster)

File name: 1962_ThinFilm_v2
Rev: 8.24.15