Finally! A $60 RAMdisk on a PCI card

PC World: Taiwanese hardware maker Gigabyte Technology has stumbled upon a faster way to boot up PCs based on Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system.

Please allow me to quote something I penned back in 1999: “I’d love to see someone design and release a battery-backed hardware RAM disk for PCs… Such devices existed in the early 1990s for the Commodore 64/128 and the Apple IIgs and permitted these systems to boot their graphical operating systems before the PCs of their day had managed to bring up a C: prompt. A similar device for today’s PCs would do more to boost system performance than any other innovation I see coming down the pipeline any time soon.”You can find the paragraph, in context, on page 214 of Optimizing Windows for Games, Graphics and Multimedia.

Enough self-congratulation. I’m glad someone finally made this device, which is called the Gigabyte i-Ram PCI ramdisk. And here’s the great news: The device is going to cost about $60 without RAM. 512-meg DIMMs can be expensive or cheap. A quick scan turns up some that I’d be willing to trust for $41 from Newegg.com.

It plugs into a PCI slot but it only uses the slot for power. Data itself is transferred via a serial ATA cable. This improves compatibility, I suppose, but I would have liked to have seen the serial ATA hardware integrated onto the board. But that would have increased costs, and arguably most of the people who will want this already have serial ATA. At least the target market does. I don’t know if this is going to prove more popular with people who want to hot rod their Pentium 4s, or people who want to increase the life expectancy of an older PC. This thing would do wonders for Mom’s PC, or my sister’s PC, and their primary interests are word processing and e-mail. They would love the speed and the quiet.

I’ve got all sorts of ideas for this thing. The article says it’ll be out in July. I want one BAD.

What kinds of ideas? For one, I’d love to eliminate the biggest source of latency in my PCs. I tend not to hit the CPU all that hard most of the time, but I sure do hit my disks hard. I’d love to eliminate the last mechanical piece in the system. Let’s face it: Hard drives crash. This thing gets wiped out if it loses power for 12 hours, but how often does that really happen? And if you’ve got a UPS and you shut the system down, shouldn’t it last indefinitely? Backing the data up to a real hard drive on the network somewhere, or onto a memory stick will solve that issue. Between that and a Ghost image of the system partition, you can recover from a power outage fast.

And who doesn’t want an ultra-quiet PC? Get a cool-running CPU and video card, and maybe, just maybe, your PC can survive on its case fan alone again. With this on a mini-ITX board with an external power supply, a completely fanless, ultra-quick PC might be possible.

And I can see all sorts of applications for this thing for my new employer.

I’m as excited as a puppy when company comes over bearing dog biscuits.

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