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The Almighty Buck

Hidden Consequences: Rambus And DDR SDRAM Prices 171

Jimmie writes: "Looks like Rambus, Inc intends to use licensing fees arising from its recent patent settlements to force the price of DDR SDRAM to be high enough that Direct RDRAM (which we know is ridiculously expensive right now) can compete. When asked that very question, the VP of worldwide marketing at Rambus replied 'I wouldn't argue with that conclusion.' Story at" Sometimes the computer industry's oldest saying seems to be "If at first you don't succeed ... squeeze out some competition."
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Hidden Consequences: Rambus And DDR SDRAM Prices

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  • by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Sunday June 25, 2000 @06:52AM (#977434)
    There used to be several other types of memory under development for the next industry standard, some of which showed a great deal of promise. Two of these were ESDRAM and SLDRAM.

    ESDRAM was a type of SDRAM-like memory that included a small amount of SRAM cache on each chip which lowered latency, allowed for greater utilization, and also could boost bandwidth by allowing wider buses and moderately higher speeds. Here's an ESDRAM article at Lost Circuits [].

    SLDRAM was, like RDRAM, a protocol based memory. Unlike Rambus, it was developed by an industry consortium, and was to be royalty free. It allowed for a faster bus, and could also be operated at a double data rate. Supposedly, in some situations it might have actually been faster than RDRAM. Here's a link to the SLDRAM Corporation [].

  • by smack_attack ( 171144 ) on Sunday June 25, 2000 @06:53AM (#977435) Homepage
    Isn't this a monolopoly of the SDRAM market?

    No, it's not a monopoly, they haven't built any hotels yet. :)
  • You're a moron.

    Intel _is_ the dominant chip supplier. They supply microprocessors to 81% of PC's sold, and chipsets to a significant number. They got out of the DRAM business about 15 years ago. Intel's business is directly proportional to the number of PC's sold. The more PC's sold, the more money Intel makes. So why would it want to stifle production of memory, which would stifle production of PC's?

  • Rambus wasn't awarded the "804 patent" until 21 September 1999. So they didn't sit on it all that long before defending their rights.

    In this case, the single point of failure rests with the USPTO- for taking 10 years to read a piece of paper and put a stamp on it. If they had done their job correctly, we would have been paying royalties to Rambus since 1990 or so. (Whether or not this is good or bad is left as an exercise for the student).

    Rev Neh
  • About a year ago, the US Federal Circuit (the US court with jurisdiction over patent appeals, answerable only to the US Supreme Court) decided that enforcement of a valid patent can never be an antitrust violation.

    If true, then that would be truly startling, and obviously a very big win for people like Bill Gates. I don't see how such a lopsided result could ever stand up to scrutiny. Again, if true, the circuit court is looking more and more partial all the time. Witness the recent antics of the 9th circuit court in the Microsoft anti-trust trial.
  • Uh, it's because a patent is, by definition, a monopoly. The government enforces your exclusive rights to your invention, for a limited time, in exchange for your publishing it for all to see. And it's no win for Gates, the M$ case had jack shit to do with patents.

  • The memory cap is there because of signal problems inherent in RDRAM. Heck your supposed to use RDRAM spacers for non-filled slots jsut to limit the signal bleeding from leaving them un-spacered. I can't exactly explain the full reasons why it has so much signal bleed, but it sure seems to. They btw are serial devices as you pointed out (aka daisy chaining) & I'm betting that has something to do with it, but that's a guess.

    Another note is that at least in Intel's version of inplementing dual channel Rambus they reached the same 'wire count' or close to what you have with a single channel of SDRAM (either normal or DDR as that doens't change). So obviously something else is increasing that count that we don't know of.

    The price difference has alot to do with the manufacturing techniques required to make RDRAM & offsets the 'gain' from reducing the bus to 16 bit & then some. The shear cost to manufacturer even at optimal levels is huge for RDRAM (at a best case it woudl be twice normal SDRAM).

    Rambus as at best a medicore technology that really we could do without, but did finally spur memory makers to come out with DDR which was adressed when they first started working on the SDRAM standard in the early 90's.
  • A few questions:

    How did Rambus get patents on technologies required for all forms of memory produced today? Did they actually shell out the R&D to develop them? If so, it seems reasonable that they be rewarded with a return on their investment. Conversely, if not, their patent ought to be reviewed.

    Does Rambus really plan to use the licensing fees to kill a better technology (SDRAM)? If so, why? Wouldn't it make more business sense to just go with the better technology and milk it for marginal license fees? That means high volume and lots of cuts.

  • by rodgerd ( 402 ) on Sunday June 25, 2000 @11:12AM (#977442) Homepage

    This is, of course, factually incorrect on the part of the gentleman from Intel. Clean room reimplementations of a technology are a great way of evading copyright and trade secret laws, but they do nothing for patents - reinventing patented technology will still see you paying the patent owner, even if you can prove that you'd never heard of the patent or consulted it during the invention phase.

    The only way around a patent is to design a different mechanism that has the same outcome; not so much reinventing the wheel as discarding the wheel in favour of the catipillar track. The problem with this is that in the modern era of loosely written patents, it's almost impossible, since patents usually cover enough ground to prevent alternate mechanisms, or patent the outcome itself.

    Moreover, you'd probably end up with a technology different enough it wouldn't be business competitive - requiring different motherboards, etc.

  • You are obviously completely ignorant about the issue. The whole point is that Rambus did *not* developed anything. There's prior art for every patent Rambus holds, which makes the patents invalid. And Rambus *knows* that if it the matter goes to court, they will have no claim. That is why they haven't gone after Micron or any other big memory players.

    The really crappy thing is that Toshiba decided to settle without a fight. But that's not too bad yet. So far no US company decided to cave, and Micron has already said they'll fight. The Toshiba's "licencing" will have no relevance if/when they do take it to court. Also, only one court case will be enough to completely ivalidate Rambus's "patents".

    Anyway, next time check your facts instead pulling nonsence out of your ass.
  • How about this... Rambus knows they have legally enforcable patents on Rambus DRAM. They have some patents on SDRAM(DDR) that if a dumb judge/patent review board saw them, they might think they are cool. Eventually, someone is going to figure out that the royalty payments on the SDRAM isn't cool, but by that time, Rambus has made the cost of SDRAM so huge that Rambus memory (which they, without question, can enforce) has become the defacto standard and we are thussly held f*cked. Perhaps I'm being too paranoid.

  • It seems like you're making a false distinction between several types of competition. One is based on technical merits, another on marketing merits, and nother based on intertia, and then one based on, for lack of a better term, Spy-versus-Spy Fu.

    Can you really just pick some subset of these out and call them "good competition", and pick out some other subset and call them bad?

    I am reminded of my old MUD days, or even now what I've heard about Everquest or Ultima Online. You could imagine that your character is good simply because of its skill as an entity (strength, kicking ability, etc) and your skills as a meta-entity (kick first, then swing, then charge, etc). But, in the absence of artificial strictures, it doesn't work that way. You can trade items on ebay, you can team up with people in the same room (that is, in the real world) against your enemies (who don't have the advantage of being in the same real room), and so on.

    Why should we call "sick your lawyers" move unfair? Isn't it a sign of overall FU in the game of competition?

    The nature of competition continues to evolve, as we learn more about competition, as technology evolves (and creates new FU moves). To hearken back to the "good old days" of capitalism (hey, he kicked dirt in my eyes, cheater!) seems silly.

  • Rambus would be dead without Intel. The Dramurai don't like it, nor does AMD. Even Intel admits it's not suitable for large memory sizes (Foster server variant of Willamette is DDR), and has been backing away from it elsewhere with it's MTH chips. There's even the secret Almador DDR chipset for Willamette. Rambus's only hope at RDRAM being a mass market product is if Intel stick with RDRAM for Willamette and if Willamette is a success. Intel's Rambus warrants and patent deals are a small price to pay if that's what it takes to push RDRAM into the market place.

    DDR will not be more lucrative for Rambus if they lose the patent battle. The reason they want RDRAM to succeeed over DDR (as they have stated - this isn't my or anyone's else second guess!) is becuse they do have control over the RDRAM patents but it's a lot more unsure whether they'll prevail with SDRAM/DDR. 2% of X is a lot higher than 3-4% of zero.

  • The economies do work on supply and demand. They always have and always will. Some of the earliest written records in the word are price schedules from summerian civilization showing that even with price controls supply and demand rules all economic interactions. Pricing is always whatever the market will stand. If it is too expensive for you then dont buy it.
  • Interesting - like trademark law, you would have to enforce your patent from day one or lose it.

    This could reduce the recycle rate of technology based on unenforced patents - but it could also reduce the sucker rate of cases like this.
  • Gee, gotta fix all that awful prosperity.
  • Of course, in Netscape's case, their products were (and STILL are) absolute crap, particularly the browser. It's ironic that the DOJ cited Microsoft giving away the browser, even though Netscape did that for years. Microsoft did screw up their argument, though. They should have argued that a browser is an expected utility in a modern operating system (same as Linux, Be, etc, etc), and they would have won. It was stupid to distract everyone with the "it can't be removed" argument.

    Technically, you're wrong. Until Micro$oft forced Nutscrape to make the browser free (IE 3.0, I think), Navigator was /not/ free. You could download a free trial, but if you continued to use it past 30 days, you were legally obligated to shell out to Netscape. That's what forced them to make nav free -- businesses would use IE to avoid paying netscape to make 3000 desktops legal.

    The Slashdot Sig Virus
    Hey, baby, infect me []!
  • "DDR memory, let alone QDR memory, will outperform RAMBUS to such an extent that all their billions will be wasted. -And I think that's pretty cool."

    Um, no. The recent patent developments mean that RAMBUS stands to earn even more from DDR (And possibly QDR) if it becomes the standard.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 25, 2000 @07:02AM (#977452)
    For more info on Rambus' past business practices, check Tom Pabst's article on "Why We Don't Trust Rambus" []

    However, I am puzzled by this strategy. For one thing, despite TI's success at defending their patents on fundamental aspects of DRAM (one of many legitimate IC patents they obtained in the early days of IC manufacturing), RAMBUS must know that there is prior art that weakens their claim. While exisiting licensees would arguably tend to support (or stand idly by) as they pressed others to license their technology, cockily taking on an entire industry in this manner is just begging for a barrage of assualts on the patent itself.

    I can't believe they would be so blind, even in the heady glee of being gran such ridiculously broad patents like #6,067,592 System having a synchronous memory device [] [May 23, 3000] and #6,049,846 Integrated circuit having memory which synchronously samples information with respect to external clock signals []

    In fact, I think we have a duty to use the accumulated experience of our older (and much underappreciated) readers to start picking off the more outrageous patent claims one by one.

    The easier we make it for the remaining memory companies to see their options, the better for *us*

    To save you some work, here's a partial list of active Rambus patents (and linked to each of the patents themselves []). It's not a complete list (IANAPA), but it should save everyone some work getting started. See anything that looks familiar from "way back when"?

    1. 6,075,743 []. Method and apparatus for sharing sense amplifiers between memory banks []

    2. 6,075,730 []. High performance cost optimized memory with delayed memory writes []

    3. 6,070,222 []. Synchronous memory device having identification register []

    4. 6,067,592 []. System having a synchronous memory device []

    5. 6,049,846 []. Integrated circuit having memory which synchronously samples information with respect to external clock signals []

    6. 6,044,426 []. Memory system having memory devices each including a programmable internal register []

    7. 6,038,195 []. Synchronous memory device having a delay time register and method of operating same []

    8. 6,035,369 []. Method and apparatus for providing a memory with write enable information []

    9. 6,035,365 []. Dual clocked synchronous memory device having a delay time register and method of operating same []

    10. 6,034,918 []. Method of operating a memory having a variable data output length and a programmable register []

    11. 6,032,215 []. Synchronous memory device utilizing two external clocks []

    12. 6,032,214 []. Method of operating a synchronous memory device having a variable data output length []

    13. 6,021,076 []. Apparatus and method for thermal regulation in memory subsystems []

    14. 5,995,443 []. Synchronous memory device []

    15. 5,966,731 []. Protocol for communication with dynamic memory []

    16. 5,956,284 []. Method and apparatus for writing to memory components []

    17. 5,954,804 []. Synchronous memory device having an internal register []

    18. 5,953,263 []. Synchronous memory device having a programmable register and method of controlling same []

    19. 5,940,340 []. Method and apparatus for writing to memory components []

    20. 5,928,343 []. Memory module having memory devices containing internal device ID registers and method of initializing same []

    21. 5,913,046 []. Protocol for communication with dynamic memory []

    22. 5,896,545 []. Transmitting memory requests for multiple block format memory operations the requests comprising count information, a mask, and a second mask []

    23. 5,872,996 []. Method and apparatus for transmitting memory requests by transmitting portions of count data in adjacent words of a packet []

    24. 5,844,855 []. Method and apparatus for writing to memory components []

    25. 5,748,914 []. Protocol for communication with dynamic memory []

    26. 5,748,554 []. Memory and method for sensing sub-groups of memory elements []

    27. 5,680,361 []. Method and apparatus for writing to memory components []

    28. 5,657,481 []. Memory device with a phase locked loop circuitry []

    29. 5,606,717 []. Memory circuitry having bus interface for receiving information in packets and access time registers []

    30. 5,511,024 []. Dynamic random access memory system []

    31. 5,499,385 []. Method for accessing and transmitting data to/from a memory in packets []

    32. 5,499,355 []. Prefetching into a cache to minimize main memory access time and cache size in a computer system []

    33. 5,434,817 []. Dynamic random access memory system []

    34. 5,430,676 []. Dynamic random access memory system []

    35. 5,390,308 []. Method and apparatus for address mapping of dynamic random access memory []

  • Someone want to tell me why a consortium like OPEC is illegal in the US and the EU, yet we allow the patent holding cartels do exactly the same thing and call it "Intellectual Property Rights".

    Because the Constitution says so? "The Congress shall have Power ... To Promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries", US Consistitution, Artile 1, Section 8, Clause 8.

    The right to charge whatever the hell you want to for a limited time for thing you invented is a _constitutionally_ granted right. Only the most ultra-liberal, anti-American, and government-loving people would argue against this.

    Time for another gov't probe/crackdown.

    Ah yes, the tired old Slashdot line: "The government will come and and fixe\ everything! We love the government! Let's make the government really, really, really big and really, really, really powerful and have total control over all of the Big Evil Corporations. The government does nothing but good for us! We're Slashdot so we're really liberal and we love the government to take care of us! We like to spit on the constitution on burn it because we hate individuals rights so much!" Morons.

  • I notice at SLDRAM Corporation's website [] the latest item in the "What's New" is from 1998. Are they defunct?

  • Right, folks. We know it is harmful to consumers and the DoJ in America is the organisation to have a go.

    The URL's for the DoJ's antitrust dept are: [] and se.htm []

    - the first is general contact email addresses, the second is for new cases.

    I am sending my first email to the newcases officeand I'm not even American - send yours now, too, or they will ignore it till it is too late.

  • You bring up some interesting points about anti-competitive practices and vigorous compitition. There's an old saying that "70% is enough" market share for a company to continue growth and if a company willfully and agreegesly seeks to exceed that number that it will invite monopolistic complaints. If I own a company and I have 10% share of the market and I use anti-competitive practices to grow that share to 20%, that's hardly "abusing a monopoly position".

    Rambus does have a percieved lock on the market going forward but this perception does not translate into revenue streams untill they execute (which remains to be seen). As an example, in 1995 Netscape Comunications once had a percieved lock on the direction of internet technologies going forward. When they began to execute that percieved strong position, they drew the ire of a monopolist who pulled the rug out from under them.

    Rambus could draw the ire of big Lou at Big Blue to enter into the RAM space and pull the rug out from under them. Anything is posible.

  • The big difference between this situation and the Microchannel and Firewire situations is that there are literally billions of dollars invested in SDRAM and DDR (manufacturing, R&D, sales, markting, inventory, etc.). While the industry will survive, deveolping a new technology and replacing the industry standard will take time and money.

    In 1993 the royalties that a memory manufacturer would be willing to pay must be far less than today, since the cost of switching technologies is much higher now.

    As with the BT 'weblink patent' this is another case of waiting years until a technology is widely adopted before trying to defend any (supposed) patent violations. If these patents were known about 5+ years ago, more companies could afford to risk loosing in a court battle and/or the technologies in question may not have become as popular as they are today. After all, hidden licencing costs can't be affected by market forces.

    We really do need some sort of statute of limmitations on patent violation suits. If you have to defend trademark infrigement or risk losing your trademark, why not patents? Of course, it would help if patents could be processed a bit quicker, too.

    I also wonder about the chances of future open hardware standards. Since SDRAM was developed as a standard and Rambus had participated in the early standards definition (along w/ all the memory companies), companies might be a bit reluctant to work towards open standards in the future. Could Rambus have suggested use of, as an example, using both sides of the clock tick, knowing that they had a patent for it in the works?

    From an IP standpoint, propriatary, closed hardware seems much safer than taking chances with the national lottery we call the US patent office :(
  • Mighty naive of that standards consortium not to take from its members contractual agreements not to patent technology developed there.
  • Actually, IBM could have done better with OS/2 by providing better SDK type support to developers and making it more atractive as a platform. The Win32 support was/is pretty solid, but marketing an OS as 'it can run this other OS's stuff just fine' just didn't work out. Better multi-tasking, memory protection, etc... Just late and poorly marketed...
  • Family: Pop, Mom and Son. Pop had his salary down cut twice.
    Son to Mon (hopefully): Will Pop drink less now?
    Mom: No, you will eat less now.
  • I think this should eliminate the patent.
  • Squeezing the competition....hmm.....that reminds of one of the arguments given against Microsoft in the Anti-Trust Case. think if Microsoft does similar things, it is bombarded with lawsuits. Then, what about these people?

  • by seizer ( 16950 ) on Sunday June 25, 2000 @05:48AM (#977463) Homepage
    This isn't good for anyone, not even for Rambus. Cyclically, companies who behave like this will have a brief period (or no not so brief - look at IBM, they managed for decades) of dominance, verging on monopoly - but their nemesis will come. Rambus is quite happily shooting itself in the foot for short-term gains. *sigh*

    --Remove SPAM from my address to mail me
  • Read the constitution. It doesn't seem to like the idea of IP at all, but reconizes that it may be nessessary to stimulate innovation. Thats why patents are only allowed for a "resonable" amount of time. It should also be noted that it starts of, We the PEOPLE, not we the buinsesses. Buisnesses DO NOT HAVE RIGHTS like people do. They have some things granted to them, but by no means do they have a RIGHT to property. Read the document again; it shoulds to me like it grants these rights to PEOPLE.
  • Has anybody thought of putting up a web site that has a email that would be sent to the US Patent office which explains our displeasure with this patent?

    It could be real simple, type in your name, click a button, and a letter is sent to USPTO saying we are not down with this patent (Kind of like a petition). If we want patent reform, we are going to have to make this know to USPTO.

    (PS this could also be setup for other patents) (PPS has been taken.)
  • They told us the same thing in Canada... "Sure, get rid of the hidden sales tax, implement the GST, and prices will be lower, your children will grow up strong and healthy, world peace will follow, and even your pets will like you more!"

    What really happened? Prices went up instead. For a while businesses claimed it was due to transitional costs in changing over to the GST, and as public outrage faded, it simply never got mentioned again. We elected a national government based on their promise to rid us of the GST, and thanks to big business lobbying, nothing has happened.

    This is simply the way capitalist businesses act - get used to it.
  • I don't much like commercialism taking over our lives any more than you. But that's how it is. Would you care to change that?
  • ram is already too expensive.
    ohhh soon us aussies have a GST to make it even more expensive
    specially when it seems to blow up half the time,

    do u ever get the feeling that you want to post..but really have nothing intresting to say ?
    so u make crappy posts like this!
  • As it is, there are enough component shortages out there to drive up the prices more. Perhaps Rambus and Intel are working together on this to slow down sales so that Intel doesn't look so foolish for not making enough chips. And with all the problems of memory translation, this will encourage even more companies to switch over.
  • If this manages to survive, manufacturers will rush to patent the next generation of memory.

    It's happened before, and it'll happen again.
  • but that is what business thrives on.
  • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Sunday June 25, 2000 @05:57AM (#977472) Homepage


    RDRAM, SDRAM, DDRAM are not the only technologies around. There is a whole lot os technoilogies circulating around Big Blue, Big Q and other not so big companies for their Big and not so Big boxen. For now these technologies cost Big Bucks. But this is for now as they are not manufactured in big enough quantities.

    Rambus with its "milk the cow with a vacuum pump until it bleeds" behaviour is asking for these technologies to be brought to the PC market. And it does not have any IP there whatsoever.

    The only problem is that this will take time and cost money that will come out of the consumer pocket. And all this because Hitachi did the favourite "japanese corp versus american in court" and chikened out. I hate japs when they do this. It had a perfect case (IANAL) with a list of violations of all kinds of regulations by RAMBUS.

    There is some hope, though as price-fixing is a serious offence in EU for example and the EU comission has been amazingly fast recently on quite a lot of cases (like MCI/Sprint merger).

  • So I guess you don't mind BT price-gouging everyone in the US who uses hyperlinks?

    Alan Cox joked that it was in fact an EU conspiracy to place a stupidity tax on the US. I'm beginning to think he's right.
  • Fees for RDRAM are about 2%. The Toshiba agreement has SDRAM less, but DDR is more even though it's obviously using fewer of Rambus's (disputed) patents then RDRAM. Rambus themselves (see the original article) have admitted that they are using higher DDR fees to try to coerce people to use RDRAM.

    Agreed that a 3 or 4% licencing fee won't make DDR anywhere near as expensize as RDRAM, and even if they were the same cost DDR is still the higher performance solution. Still, the arrogance of Rambus feeling free to admit they are trying to subvert technical excellence with licencing fees is pretty disgusting!
  • Though this situation really eeks me, and I am appauled that Rambus can get away with this sort of patent ( though not knowing all the details, perhaps the patent has legal merit ), there might be a bright side.

    Case 1: Rambus doesn't do an Apple and raise the price of licenses to shut out competition. SDRAM will remain the memory of choice for a while. Intel will deminish support for it ( more mishaps with i820, etc ) SDRAM begins to go the way of EDO. DDR-SDRAM is expensive because it doesn't have a wide support base. The rift in memory market-share allows RAMBUS to market RDRAM as server memory: low-volume, high price. Thus the consumer is faced with either cheap, yet antiquated memory or expensive memory. New memory technologies ( which have been trying to emerge ) do not get a chance because the rift in memory markets and chipset support will be hurting.

    Case 2: Intel does as is currently projected. DDR-SDRAM becomes comparible to RDRAM in total value. RDRAM is going to win out, as far as I can tell. Intel is most likely only going to support RDRAM, so the market for DDR will be too small to really hit critical mass. I speculate that RDRAM is actually faster then DDR ( especially under heavy concurrent access, such as truely utilized AGP and SMP ). To my knowledge, DDR only ups the speed of the interface, the underlying technology is not significantely different than that of SDRAM ( much like ATA66 or SCSI 100). With this RDRAM will become mainstream, espeically as CPU's break the 1GHZ barrier ( more speculation on my part, based on the starvation of CPU on both memory latency and bandwidth. Of which RDRAM addresses BW. DDR mildly addresses latency ( wrt RDRAM ) and provides BW ( though only superficially ) ). In the medium run, cheaper RDRAM is going to help a lot of power-hungry people ( though probably not as much as it will hurt intro and intermediate-level system purchasers )

    Case 3: RAMBUS blatently prohibitively prices DDR-SDRAM. Now SDRAM and RDRAM are the only real players for PCs. What happens here is that RDRAM production can really begin ramping up to critical mass quickly because there is less uncertainty about the future. Prices will drop quickly over time ( though no where near SDRAM prices ). This is exactly what Intel would want. Their low-cost Celeron systems are perfectly suited for 66MHZ SDRAM. If you're an intro system, why would you bother with high-perf memory. Previously the blur between 66 and 100 allowed people to over-clock the external celeron bus. Now there is a world of difference between celeron and their "workstation-class" systems which come at a significant premium. SDRAM will either become cheap or expensive in the medium run ( lower volume production might mean higher prices if demand is sufficiently high. A typical sinario would be over-stocking of ?SDRAM causes prices to plummet, which prompts massive volume reduction, which later causes prices to go through the roof ( where it will stay ) ). Thankfully I don't think SDRAM demand will tank, so it should stay relatively normal for a while. Now here is the good part. There will now be a massive rift between the expensive ( though significant less than today ) RDRAM and the SDRAM. Hard core gamers, most servers and many desk-tops are going to opt for RDRAM. Most value-PCs are going to opt for SDRAM, but those value-conscious hard-core people ( like myself ) are still going to have demand for something inbetween. And perhaps there is a better compromise between latency and BW in a newer technology ( I read memory technologies a while ago about multi-row caching via SRAM which seems an intelligent approach which is compatible with most interfaces )

    Basically I'm saying that those who demand performance are going to benifit from the demise of DDR because it'll ultimately be cheaper for them. Those that are on a budget are going to see minimal increases in their low-end memory ( assuming things don't gyrate too wildly ). And those of us looking for an overall better solution might find solace in a new technology that fills this important niche.

    In the long run, I think this has good consequences ( if you ignore the whole moral imperative of stifling competition, which we can't really effect here ). In the short run it doesn't really even affect me ( being an AMD person ). It is only the medium run that has issues ( I wonder if I can hold off purchasing another computer for 2 or 3 years ).

  • 3. 6,070,222. Synchronous memory device having identification register

    4. 6,067,592. Read the rest of this comment...

    Heh, I guess Slashdot could be in violation of a patent every time someone posts a long comment ;)
  • Cyclically, companies who behave like this will have a brief period (or no not so brief - look at IBM, they managed for decades) of dominance, verging on monopoly - but their nemesis will come.

    What about Microsoft? They've been doing crap like this for fifteen years, and it hasn't been till now that the DOJ's cracked down on them (sure, they've been through the courts before, but when you got plenty of $$$, they aren't a problem). Intel has also been doing it too... fact, you really have to wonder if RAMBUS is doing all this on its own, or if Intel's also a major player. Remember, AMD's really growing in the market with their faster chips. Being as how Intel's loosing big-time with their 8xx chipsets, they really need to stop DDR RAM. I'm sure they've seen the performance results that the GeForce GTS video card has gotten with DDR, and they know that they're gonna get nailed real hard if they don't do anything about DDR. They got both billions of dollars in stock options as well as their processors on the line with RAMBUS, so they have plenty of incentive as well.
  • by puppet10 ( 84610 ) on Sunday June 25, 2000 @07:28AM (#977478)
    Micron hasn't decided to fall like the dominoes of Tosiba and Hitachi []. And Intel doesn't think this will stop independant memory development either []. This offers some hope that someone will stand up to these overbroad patents. Its not quite over yet.

  • Naw, capitalism doesn't suck ass. Greed sucks ass. Price fixing sucks ass.

    How companies report 'profits' sucks ass. Say a company made 10 million in profit last year. This year they make 9 million in profit, and have the nerve to say that they 'lost money', and need to cut jobs and/or raise prices.

    Look at gas stations in an area. Rarely will you find different gas stations charging different (or significantly different) prices on gasoline. This is price fixing. It doesn't take a meeting in a cigar filled room for it to happen.

    Capitalism has been bastardized. it's not the system, it's the people running the system, and they need a kick in the teeth.

    Unfortunately capitalism like communism is doomed to failure. Another experiment down the tube.
  • I have noticed everyone saying that the industry will survive, but has anyone seriously looked at it? The Computing industry right now is in just as big a flux as the Internet and the Global Economy (Basically all the same now right?) If the Cost of SDRAM + RDRAM are the same then the whole industry will slow down, (have you seen RDRAM prices lately?) most manufacturers are already tooled for SDRAM and most other Memory technologies really aren't slated to be introduced for another 3-5 years It looks more like the entire computing industry could be in for another shake-up unless the DOJ can act quickly enough. (Even then the US Patent Office could shut down the industry single-handedly too)
  • You describe the problem really well, but your idea of remedies is just plain wrong.

    Good example: NT IS NOT Windows. It is DEC VMS. At some point Bill Gates got Dave Cuttler and another 20-50 engineers from DEC. Does it mean that he would be entitled to all patents related to the OS (if they would exist) ???

    Current system is not exactly right, but your proposal would increase the expenses for the companies tenfold. Really, why spend money on lawyers and defend yourself when you can hire the patentholder from the company that is suing you ??? It looks like the crazy mix of bribery and prostitution though, and believe me, not every inventor will have enough integrity to repel the temptations of easy money.

    You also should not forget that the existence of many companies (even the big ones) is related to the IP they have.

    As for Rambus & other ones like that, I'd put a cap on royalties for these "IP shacks" and reduce the time span of their patents.
  • Intel has seen that people can and will pay buttloads of money for computers. Look at the heyday of big $ computing, the late 80s, where your Intergraphs, SGIs, HPs, Suns, charged what people today would consider outrageous sums of money for machines, because they did things that the cheap PCs of the time could only dream of doing.

    Then through market-wrangling, and some minor innovation, those cheap PCs got enough horsepower to be "good enough" for enough applications, and got enough marketshare for critical mass to draw away developers, and it looked like, the commodity hardware solution was a viable alternative to the overpriced proprietary platforms of the past.

    Now it looks like Intel wants their machine to become an overpriced proprietary platform. It took them 20 years to get to this point, but they have a captive market, most competitors are dead or dying, and Intel through Microsoft has locked-down the software market, and through Rambus, and other moves (musical CPU slot-specs, AGP, laughably lame USB), is trying to transform the once cheap commodity hardware solution into an extremely expensive "good enough" proprietary platform. And Microsoft was really a disposable pawn in the game, because Intel has demonstrated that they can be replaced: BeOS, Linux, and 5 years ago, they could have done it through OS/2 if they had chosen a comfier relationship with IBM - but IBM was a competitor in the HW space, so no luck there.

    I'm trying to work out how PPC didn't make much headway in terms of knocking Intel off the hill - and it gets very conspiracy-ish: Intel had Bill Gates use a mind-control-ray on Steve Jobs to kill cloning, and the CHiRP platform, back at the time of the MS-Office for Mac extortion, and also, got Bill Walker hired on at Motorola as a Mole to destroy PPC as a potential mainstream CPU. I'm not sure what Bill Walker's motivation was, perhaps it involved young boys?

    Anyway, the PC-era is dying, servers are where it's at. In 5 years, we're all going to be typing on /. either from a $30,000 Itanium box, or from WebTV, or web-enabled cell-phone. (only through AOL/TW) The era of the affordable desktop computer on commodity hardware is at an end. It is the suckers who embraced the "compatability thru single-vendor solutions" philosophy who are to blame.

    Perhaps this is the plan for eliminating online music piracy as well.

    If it ain't broke, fix it 'til it is!
  • I litigated patent infringement for a number of years until I decided to go back to tech. For reasons I really can't figure out, the vast majority of my cases involved patent defense. While I have seen some bad-news patents, and actually succeeded in invalidating a few, I can tell you that the only cases involving bullshit claims are the ones that settled quickly.

    For the most part, folks really don't slam down hundreds of thousands of dollars to litigate a losing case, even to beat up on a littler guy. Once you show them that you can hurt them, they go away. Really, they do.

    I did have one case that went way further than it should have gone -- and it hurt the Plaintiff more than helped him. The rest of the industry in question ended up backing the little guy, and we ended up with so strong a position that they ultimately settled by offering my client (the defendant) $100,000 and fees to agree to let the Plaintiff drop its case.

    So, in the end, the system works OK. The reason there isn't much need for additional litigation is that bullshit patents are generally ignored, close patents are rarely asserted on cost/benefit, and other patents SHOULD be asserted -- that's how we resolve these kinds of disputes in the U.S.
  • It seems to me the problem could be solved fairly simply; that if the owner of a patent is a company, that the company must actually manufacture the product they are patenting or it becomes invalid after so many years of lack of use. Of course it has to be worded carefully so that they can't just assign the stock to the CEO or something, but it could help.
  • The government's fundamental function, according to libertarian dogma, is to protect property rights. Patents are property, and anybody smarter than the communist junior high school students who make up the majority of Slashdot understand this. Therefore, the protection of intellectual property (patents and copyright) is part of the fundamental function of a libertarian government. It goes alongside protection of your physical property from looting, which most would agree is not excessive government intervention.

  • A site/organization that fought tech issues would be better. Setup lobby groups in Washington. Have petitions. Congress email, addresses, etc. Accept donations to fund it. For tech workers by tech workers. (
  • I mean we need to start something like this. :)
  • In Oz the government has threatened action against any company which raises prices by more than the increased costs to that company. In the case of RAM that means no price rise. Of course I doubt the government really will do anything.

    I am used to it, too. I come from New Zealand and over there GST has been around for at least 10 years.

  • Notice the one and only fact which is important when contemplating the fact that companies have already been accepting Rambus' claims to DDR patents: they're all Japanese companies which have knuckled under. Japanese companies operate under the Keiretsu (sp?) system, in which companies cooperate and share patented IP for small royalties, building up strategic relationships and making the companies interdependant and strategically allied. By knuckling under to Rambus right now, Toshiba et al feel that they'll end up getting better, lower, licensing terms from Rambus, and they're right...except...for the US and other non-Japanese based companies. Remember Micron, for example? They'll simply fight this in court because Americans and Europeans don't do business this way. We don't believe in Keiretsu (sp?) systems stifling competition by patenting everything and sharing it only with "preferred" partners to engender a market dominance/monopoly. We especially don't believe in such systems when they exclusively benefit foreign companies. Look for the patent to be invalidated in the US and Rambus and its early-adopter partners to get anally fucked by the lack of an American patent, making any company here able to produce DDR SDRAM and related tech at 2-3 percent cheaper margins than the Japanese and some others. After all, there's plenty of prior art here, especially by Big Blue. One thing you can definitely count on about the American patent system is, it benefits American companies over foreign ones when it comes to patent disputes. This isn't even mentioning the EU, which takes a dim view of companies trying to stifle competition by forcing competing tech to pay up or get out based on very shaky IP claims. Rambus' own admittance to this being the case, will be brought up in Court both in the US and EU and be part of their undoing.
  • This is one ambiguous Rambus response to a question. I read the quote I don't need to go back, for someone so cynical about Rambus you're awful quick to take YOUR interpretation of one ambiguous statement as gospel truth. The objective is clearly to maximize the hype. Unlike you I've also read other Rambus pronouncements over the last few days. The simple fact is that Rambus have already stated in other communications that they will charge HIGHER royalties for DDR SDRAM than RDRAM. So you explain to me why they will now want RDRAM to win. Another fact you are ignoring is that if RDRAM wins in terms of Intel mobo share then Rambus has to hand over a huge chunk of their company to Intel, so factor that into your reasoning and again explain your conclusion. Don't jump on the rabid monopoly theory based on one remark, think for a second and tell me why on Earth they'd still want RDRAM to win.

    As I've already stated in other posts, if all they can do is influence Hitachi and Toshiba, that isn't enough to affect pricing or volumes significantly. Just look at the price of SDRAM at source recently. It's lept by a huge ammount, it may hit 100% price increase that hasn't translated to anything near the kind of a price hike predicted at the hands of Rambus royalties. The simple fact is this whole theory is baseless. Even if Rambus charged huge royalties it still wouldn't make SDRAM significantly less competitive against RDRAM. It isn't driven by the royalties they charge, it's driven by the volumes it's made in.

    This whole story is a lot of nonsense.
  • the problem was that mere uneducated speculation (no offense intended) was moderated above content which may have more bearing on the issue. when I read through the comments, I'm looking for more information on the subject. Something highly moderated gives it the apearence of relevance, however on this subject, one of which I have knowledge of, I find that some inaccurate information has been given a great deal of attention, which causes misinformation among other people looking to educate themselves. That was the basis of my previous comment.


    Tyranny =Gov. choosing how much power to give the People.

  • Of course the Macophiles will hypocritically say that Mac is a viable alternative, and you don't need Microsoft, while at the same time claiming they are a monopoly (Linux people do the same thing, but their argument is weaker).

    I've never heard anyone say Linux is a viable alternative as a desktop OS, just that it will be. And it is a viable alternative, a better alternative in many circumstances, as a server-- but that's not where MS has a monopoly.

    And even though there are alternatives, that does not mean one can not be a monopoly. They have monopoly power, and that's all that matters.

    Here's my [] DeCSS mirror. Where's yours?

  • I'm a physicist and an algorithm designer. I know the upside of patents... if I dedicate my energy and efforts to something, I eventually reap some small percentage of the gains from my work.

    I also know the downside. When I was in the University, they got 50% on profits from any patents I might have gotten in the line of sponsered research. (Of course, if it was sponsered, with the people I was working under, it wouldn't have been mine at all. Hence, no patent work there. Maybe if I get back into academia somewhere else...) Now, working in industry, I'm vulnerable to corporate lawyers' interpretations of "related research"... let me tell you, that sucks. Worse, if it was something I wanted to, say, GPL, and not part of paid work effort... I'd be fighting a legal battle over something I should rightfully have full rights to.

    What I propose, for the good of the high-tech industries, the engineers, and the scientists, is this:
    Patents are owned by the person who takes them out. They can be licenced and distributed by a company that contracts them for a period significantly less than the duration of the patent, but ownership reverts to the individual(s) responsible for the patent. The licencing rights are not salable except with consent of their owner(s). Patent licensing rights can be negotiated for before the research takes place, but all rights are not licensable by a blanket clause on employment, save in the case of official thinktank hires (with the current rules for thinktank employment, IE free direction clauses, partial royalty rights, etc still in effect), and exempt employment does not mean own-time work is still in the employ of the signer of paychecks.

    Add to this a reform of patent office hiring and training, patent fees, and generality of patents (no vague patents should be binding, I'm sorry... likewise, patents should not be granted for general systems. I'm all for algorithm patents, engineering patents, or process patents. I'm also for unordered process patents (Do A then B, and follow C D and F, in any order), but I'm seriously discusted by system patents. They practically insure vagueness.
  • I assume Rambus is American, although I don't know that for a fact (if it isn't just replace Toshiba with Transmetta). So what if Toshiba refuses to pay patents? I mean they could truthfully claim they don't deal with terrorists.
    So does anybody know how patent laws carry? thanks.
  • I remember a few months ago a slashdot story about skyrocketing memory prices. Most people were doing some math and deciding it wouldn't really. Since I was planning on buying a new computer soon, I hopped onto the chip merchant []'s site and got 256 megs of PC133 SDRAM. It cost me $218. Now the same memory would cost me $278! Ouch. Not quite a skyrocket, but I'm glad I grabbed it early.
  • Again it comes down to a company misappropriating other peoples IP just as with the BT patent case recently. If we want to stop these situations from arising the easiest solution would be to make companies and individuals financially liable for misappropriation of IP, that way if they try to patent something that is obviously nullified due to prior art a bunch of lawyers will decend on them like vultures and pick them clean, this would restore a rights-responsibilities balance in the IP system.
  • by Veteran ( 203989 ) on Sunday June 25, 2000 @07:38AM (#977497)
    Rambus is symptomatic of a much larger problem which is coming in industry; the problem of intellectual parasites. In the past patents have not played that large a part in shaping how industries produce goods; most patent disputes were handled by cross licensing. If producer 'A' had a patent it tried to enforce against producer 'B', usually 'B' had patents it could enforce against 'A'. The results were cross licensing agreements which allowed both companies to continue in production.

    Of course sometimes companies had no Patent portfolio to cross license, and were forced to pay royalties. However, being producers themselves, the patent holders couldn't charge too much; corporate 'karma' prevented it - after all if they charged predatory royalties - somebody could do the same things to them.

    Rambus on the other hand produces NOTHING; they exist only as a shell firm with a PR department, a legal department, a portfolio of patents, and little else. Because they produce nothing, companies like Rambus are not subject to cross licensing, and corporate 'karma' has no effect on them. The result is that a Rambus style firm is free to gouge on their royalty demands. The only thing which limits them is the threat of a counter suits by deep pocketed memory producers with the object of invalidating the Patents.

    In effect companies like Rambus have the moral stature of email spam; both are a parasitic drain on a system which tends to hamper the productive.

    I think that we are only seeing the tip of the Rambus future. Because Rambus makes nothing, their 'cost of goods sold' is zero; at least Microsoft has to pay for the blank CD's that they press. Thus, minus their expenses, everything that Rambus takes in is gravy. One of the things that I expect them to do in the future is use their money to acquire additional patents to suck even more blood out of the economy.

    It is no accident that both spam and productionless, patent holding companies were dreamed up by lawyers. Neither is an approach that productive people would think of.

    Is there a solution to parasitic patent behavior? I think that there is. In the United States patents can only be granted to individuals, NO COMPANY HAS EVER BEEN GRANTED A PATENT ON ANYTHING. Companies obtain patents by having them assigned to them. This is typically done by means of employment contracts which force inventors to assign their patent rights to the corporation. This puts into effect the first layer of parasitic behavior. Most abuse of the patent system occurs because of the assignment process; if the law were changed so that only an INDIVIDUAL could own a patent - as well as be granted one - most of the parasitic and bad consequences of the patent system would disappear.

  • It is the consumers and small retailers that get hurt.

    Besides which, patent concerns are for now, and the foreseeable future, not something that will go away.
    To talk about devices without patent concerns is optimistic.. If they don't have them at first, someone will do what Rambus Inc. is doing, and we will have the same situation again - at the cost to the little people.

    While I would like to agree about innovation overcoming any obstacle, it can, IMHO, only do so in a relatively competitive field - hence having to be proactive against certain OS / Office-app. producers, and possibly with the likes of Rambus Inc. too

    NB - Cynicism is sophistication. Sophism doesn't work... I still like the sig though.

  • The really disappointing thing is that it looks like RAMBUS is quite inferior to the current crop of SDRAM offerings. Check out this recent article at Tom's hardware [] for details.
  • Latencies are only larger for memory on the same channel, and the simpler layouts are not unimportant if you want to try and suport additional channels. The 2 sticks are a non issue, the sticks would obviously be smaller. You're also talking about DDR memory which is faster than RDRAM, it's the comparrisons with 133 SDRAM which have been unfair. You'll have a point when DDR mobos are on the shelves but then Rambus might be pleased about that.

    On the issue of Rambus' memory IP, if the advantages were unimportant, the memory manufacturers would eschew them and escape the royalties. Your rhetoric on the standards committee is lifted straight from the Hitachi countersuit against Rambus which has now been dropped like a stone. In fact you didn't get it quite right (maybe you got Dr Tom's contorted version of the facts), because one of the things that Hitachi also claimed was that Rambus should have disclosed their existing patents when they joined the group. This would have given them forewarning to demand free use or perhaps to steer around the technology. Any way you look at it this was a desperate ploy by Hitachi and had a snowballs chance in hell of working in court. You could claim they dropped the suit to help sell the business but the truth is that Hitachi were crapping themselves at the prospect of losing their shirt on this. The memory business is booming right now (they can't make enough of the stuff and prices are rocketing) and they can't have been in any hurry to sell, that's just more smoke.

    So which of us actually knows what they're talking about? I think I have my facts straight.
  • It appears that the actually RAM type is not an issue, its the way the ram is accessed synchronously. Seems like the controllers are the problem and not the actual type of ram.
  • I honestly don't know about the IBM/Microchannel squeeze, but Apple and FireWire? What's the next generation that's going to replace Firewire? Don't see that one coming soon. Heck, Firewire isn't even that widespread yet, and they are working on getting the 800 Mbps out the door.
    Time for the master to check his reality.
  • by jeroenb ( 125404 ) on Sunday June 25, 2000 @01:36PM (#977503) Homepage
    First off, I'm not a big supporter of Rambus memory, but I do think it's a pretty decent solution.

    The fact that RDRAM has a higher latency than SDRAM will become less and less important as CPU caches increase in size - this will mean larger chunks of memory will be copied into the cache at a time, making bandwidth the bottleneck instead of the latency.

    The signallig problem is called bus skew and basically has to do with synchronizing at high speed. It might sound ridiculous, but when you have signals moving across a bus at 800+MHz, pin 0 could already be sending its n+1th bit when pin 15 is still waiting for bit n. This means you have to be absolutely certain your timing is perfect, because adding circuits to fix these problems will only slow things down again (defeating the point of a high speed bus.) This is something SDRAM will run into sooner or later as well though and the problem is much worse with 64 pins.

    The yields are currently very bad because you have to assemble a RIMM entirely before you can test them. This means that if you have 1 chip that doesn't work, you can throw away the entire RIMM. Some calculating shows that in a situation like that, 90% yields in chips will only mean about 50% yield in RIMMs. This is probably just a matter of time though, before someone figures out a way to test them without assembling the entire RIMM first.

    In the long run, I think Rambus could have a really interesting technology, but the way they try to force it onto everybody and demanding licensing fees and royalties, it will be hard to convince people... The company sucks and will probably drag down the technology with it.

  • Maybe we should ask the Democratic party (and socialists of all stripes) why they think the federal government is smart enough to micromanage the economy?

    What frightens me is that you think the government should be MORE intrusive into the free market. You couch your arguments into "pro-competition" terms, but when government steps in and starts picking winners and losers (i.e., anti-trust law), that is not pro-competition.

    I will agree, however, that some of the laws being passed are not particularly good for consumers, more government intervention is not the answer. Government is a blunt instrument, and should only be used in the most extreme cases (and Microsoft is really pretty borderline). Microsoft is a piker compared to how powerful Standard Oil was.


  • Anti-trust law is not cherry picking. Even Friedrich Hayek supported
    legal restrictions on monopolies. Read some basic economics before
    saying that anti-trust law is anti-competition.
  • if the law were changed so that only an INDIVIDUAL could own a patent - as well as be granted one - most of the parasitic and bad consequences of the patent system would disappear.

    The problem with your statement is that afaik almost all inventions (the high-tech ones, anyway), are not solely the credit of an individual, but of research teams funded by companies.

    Okay... I'll do the stupid things first, then you shy people follow.

  • by maraist ( 68387 ) <michael.maraistN ... .com ['Mgm' in g> on Sunday June 25, 2000 @09:30AM (#977517) Homepage
    Fist, and foremost. Moderation has nothing to do with agreeing with content. I therefore disaree with your supposition that I ( or comments like mine ) should not have been moderated so highly. The goal is to weed through uninteresting, or flaming remarks. If someone like myself is erroneous in my comments and it is highly marked, then someone like yourself will be able to pay attention to it and make your rebuttle. Those that see my comment will at least be given the chance to see yours as well, and all will be good. Additionaly, if I was truely incorrect, then by having someone like you find my mistake, then I would actually be given the chance to learn the err in my ways. This is called information exchange. I like this system.. It works; It has for me at least; I have been incorrect in the past about an original post or two ( meaning I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to learn ).

    As a second point, I would like to thank you for not producing a flame, but instead being insightful.

    With that said, I'll have to disagree with you and stick with my original comments. I do not believe that your agument holds.

    First, my choice of the word speculation was not an admission of ignorance, but more a disclaimer saying that I do not have definitive evidence. Nor am I trying to prove a point based on the speculation, so it really matters little. Notice that my point was not that we're all going to be better off if RDRAM is our only choice, so long as it gets cheaper. But that, of the many ways that this situation can go, RDRAM will most likely become cheaper. Which will, in turn, help period. There is a possibility that this will backfire on RAMBUS / Intel in the creation of a nich for someone else to fulfill ( and ideally free us of memory woes ) which was the whole "shiny lining" that the article was about.

    As for your comment about the "PROVEN" superiority of SDRAM. I would like to challenge you or ANYONE to verify this. I have a personal pet pieve about the word proven.. Anyone that uses it is put into a catagory in my mind; nothing in life is for certain or proven. Evidence is not proof of something, but only support of it's concept. I get tired of using the phrase, "the world was once proven to be flat because all _known_ evidence supported it".

    As for SDRAM and RDRAM, I read Toms Hardware, Anandtech and Sharky Extreme. Yes, there have been benchmarks that showed SDRAM in the lead, but I have ALSO seen benchmarks by them that say the opposite. I really don't feel like digging it up, you can either take my word for it, or go research it yourself. I'm sure their articles are well marked. I'd be curious to learn of your findings. Additionally, almost all their benchmarks are on single CPU configurations, which is NOT the theoretical target of RDRAM. The stated design goals of RDRAM revolve around multiple simultaneous access; something not very well supported by existing single CPU systems. Intel's Italium is completely based on massively concurrent access. AGP is theoretically bassed around this as well ( though I do not think much aside from the failed intel 740 card ( or possibly even the i810 chipset ) makes full use of the concurrent bandwidth ( by among other things masking the latency ) ). My use of the word speculation is because I have not yet seen ANY benchmarks that test this theory. Provide a fully speced out AGP and SMP configuration then directly compare SDRAM ( and DDR for that matter ) with RDRAM, then one will be able to comment for or against my claim. I speculate primarily on the theory ( which I know can not be used as a basises for an argument, but again, that wasn't my main point in the argument ). Once again, I HAVE actually seen numbers that put RDRAM based systems ahead of others ( they were topping out the scores ). Thus, if you are paying top-dollar for a system, then I believe that your best bet at the moment is an RDRAM system.

    As for DDR-SDRAM, I admit ignorance on the details. I've only read pices here and there, and don't even remember if I've seen any benchmarks on it. I do however remember that it's main call-to-fame is the double-transmittion ( rising/falling-edge transmission ) which we've come to know and love for the past two or three years. The main advancement here is NOT that they've created faster memory, but that they've learned how to transmit higher frequencies over longer distances. High freq. over the length of a motherboard will introduce lots of noise, and will drain a lot of power. By taking the same signal and getting twice as much data out of it, you're essentially getting something for nothing. A true advancement in technology. I made the comparison to ATA66 which allows maximum data-transfer rates to be un-hindered, but there is NO harddrive today that I have ever heard of that can transmit 66Meg/second continuously. This is primarily for use with cache bursts. Write 2 meg to the drive quickly, so that you can allow the second device to read. It stays in the drive's cache until it can be committed to disk at a more realistic 8 Meg / second. Upping the bandwidth allows improved latency by getting info to and from the device quicker. It works best under heavily loaded situations ( moreso in SCSI than in IDE however ). Likewise, DDR-SDRAM will allow addresses and writes to be transmitted more quickly, and thereby freeing up the bus for additional operations. However, this does not say anything about the memory's ability to sequentially process it. To my knowledge, we're still dealing with plain old, old-school memory access, though in a slightly more pipelined fashion. Concurrent access is not addressed by this technology. Theoretically, the mem-controller could rearrange memory accesses to maximize locality ( as would a SCSI controller ), but this does not garuntee throughput. RDRAM's use of independent channels can ( note: this is speculation based on the theory ) allow, under most circumstances, greater bandwidth provided critical mass of concurrent access. As we've seen, this critical mass is not zero. There are obviously situations where SDRAM _has_ outperformed RDRAM. The race, however, is closer with slower CPU speeds than with faster. And in case I somehow didn't make my point strong enough, the _theory_ only take hold after a critical mass of concurrent access is achieved. RDRAM has a massive drawback in terms of latency, so it's curve starts off with a handicap. The fact that it can outperform under extremely heavy-loads "suggests" ( here's that whole using evidence to prove, or shoud I say support a case ), that the trend should continue with ever faster machines.
    The theory suggests that only server-class machines ( having multiple concurrent processes ) will fully take advantage of RDRAM. This is the whole Pentium Pro argument of 32 v.s. 16 bit code. The situation back then was not well suited for 32 bit code, and they just happened to suck at 16 bit code so benchmarks could really ream the PPro. All in all, however, it was a superior architecture. The concept of RDRAM is more advanced than SDRAM ( I think this can go unquestioned ). The real question is whether the drawbacks from the more complex technology outweight the advances IN A SERVER. I highly doubt Intel will not market RDRAM for laptops or value-PCs for this very reason. I am a very theory / principle based person, so I believe that the evidence supports my case, but I can not say this with any real amount of certainty because I have not seen benchmarks that test the theory properly.

    Lastly, I fully admit that my theory biases me; I am not an authority on the matter. I am reading into some benchmarks. But again, this has nothing to do with the point in my previous article.
  • Just because something is "in the constitution" does not mean that is it right. Get over yourself.

    He didn't say it was right. He said it was the law. And, in fact, it is and has been the law for more than 200 years.

    The particular clause your are unfond of here, is no longer the law -- we had to fight a civil war to find out why it shouldn't be.

    To suggest that the Constitution, as amended, does not codify American social norms in some sense is wrong-headed. If there was a sea-change in political views, the means exist to amend it. Not only hasn't this ever been proposed for Article I, Section 8 -- that issue has never been on the political scope.

    Of course, the fact that the proposition is normative in America, doesn't make it right either. The principles of Patent and Copyright law certainly aren't "right" just because they are in the Constitution.

    On the other hand, the fact that they have been organic law of this nation for more than 200 years is highly persuasive. "Get over yourself," while pithy, certainly does not constitute much of an argument to the contrary.
  • Err...
    I wouldn't call what Apple did 'squeezing'. They placed a $1/port licencing fee if the manufacturer wanted to use the word 'Firewire', rather than IEEE 1394.
    Also, Firewire is an open standard. Anyone can make one. In order to even MAKE a Microchannel device, you had to licence it from IBM.
  • As for SDRAM and RDRAM, I read Toms Hardware, Anandtech and Sharky Extreme. Yes, there have been benchmarks that showed SDRAM in the lead, but I have ALSO seen benchmarks by them that say the opposite. I really don't feel like digging it up, you can either take my word for it, or go research it yourself. I'm sure their articles are well marked. I'd be curious to learn of your findings.
    Check out Real World Tech ( []). These guys really know their stuff and are very professional in their approach. There is a particularly unbiased appraisal of RDRAM here [].

    The fact is that even if the performance of RDRAM is better than SDRAM (and it hasn't generally lived up to expectations) there are still plenty of things to not like about RDRAM such as the heat and cost issues. Infact, just about the only thing RDRAM has going for it (in a desktop machine) is the high bandwidth and that advantage is more than nullified by DDR SDRAM.

  • Case2 shows exactly why this should not be rated so highly.

    The author proves he is blindly speculating when he states "I speculate that RDRAM is actually faster then DDR ( especially under heavy concurrent access, such as truely utilized AGP and SMP ). " He even notes he is speculating! RDRAM has already proven to not outperform current SDRAM in real world tests, yet this guy says he thinks it will outperform the next generation DDR, which by definition is 2x the speed of SDRAM!

    He would do better to say that it wont matter at all because by then we will all be using internet toasters...

    This proves moderators don't even read the stuff they moderate, they simply go for length and amount of HTML in a comment.


    Tyranny =Gov. choosing how much power to give the People.

  • by astrophysics ( 85561 ) on Sunday June 25, 2000 @08:37AM (#977535)
    So far Rambus's agreements only give them ~0.5-3% royalties, depending on what type of memory and which manufactuer. So even if the royalties were charged off the retail price (I don't htink this is the case.), and they got 3% royalties on everything (this is an approximate upper bound), then the increase in memory costs due to Rambus enforcing it's patents would only be ~0.03$/MB.

    Presently, both RDRAM and DDRRAM are very expensive. This isn't because of rambus taking lots of royalties. It's because the products are still new, people who buy early are willing to pay extra, they haven't become comodities yet, memory manufactuers still haven't matured their manufacturing and testing to the same extend they have for SDRAM, etc..

    So I'm not worried about memory prices soaring due to Rambus. I'm confident that with time prices on RDRAM and DDRRAM will come down.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    128M RAM contains $0.01 silicon and $10 labor, but it can only be manufactured in a $2,000,000,000 facility.
  • The Patent Act provides for an award of costs and fees in an extraordinary case -- thus, clearly invalid patents may not be asserted without risk.

    There are other causes of action (including criminal causes for perjury) if claims are falsely stated in a Patent Application.

    I have seen cases where patent owners have been fined and punished for misrepresenting their rights to the public. It's not common, but it does happen.

    On the other hand, the vast majority of cases brought to trial are far more reasonable disputes -- cases where both parties have a reasonable argument. (Most cases where the rights are slam-dunk are settled well in advance of trial, let alone appeal).
  • by Upsilon ( 21920 ) on Sunday June 25, 2000 @09:52AM (#977541)

    You're whole argument is based on the simply untrue assumption that RAMBUS is ultimately a better solution than DDR. Well, I've got news for you: it ain't. The goal behind RAMBUS was to increase bandwidth and lower the pin count. They did both of these things, creating a 800 mhz memory module (actually 400 DDR) that uses a 16 bit bus. This delivers the same bandwidth as 200 mhz SDRAM would, since SDRAM uses a 64 bit bus. However, RAMBUS ran into a LOT of unexpected problems. Let's go over them all:

    First of all, there's the whole latency issue. Basically, RAMBUS will always have higher latencies then SDRAM. This is a big part of the reason that RAMBUS can't seem to significantly outperform regular PC133 even though it should have 50% more bandwidth.

    Then there's the memory limit issue. As one adds more and more RAMBUS memory, because of signalling issues (which I'll be the first to admit I don't completely understand) it becomes extremely difficult to keep it all working. The end result is that there is currently no way to have more than 512 megs of RAMBUS memory. This simply isn't enough for servers, and because of this even Intel, the big RAMBUS supporter, plans on using DDR memory for the server version of Willamette. It won't be long until 512 isn't enough for the desktop either. Do you really want to be stuck with this limit?

    There's also the price issue. RAMBUS was supposed to be cheaper than SDRAM because it uses fewer pins, but things don't always work out the way they're supposed to. RAMBUS yeilds are horrible, and it is unlikely they will ever be as good as SDRAM yeilds. RAMBUS also requires a more expensive packaging and needs its own heatsink to deal with heat issues. The idea of ever putting RAMBUS in a laptop horrifies me. Also, because RAMBUS is yeilding so terribly 800 mhz modules are actually quite rare. Most RAMBUS being made is either 600 or 700 mhz, which compares quite pourly with PC133 considering that the 800 mhz modules can barely outperform it. There are also concerns that RAMBUS might not have much room to grow. Some video cards already use 200 mhz (non-DDR) SDRAM, and although these speeds are not mass-produced yet, the biggest limiting factor is motherboards which support it. SDRAM still has a lot of room to increase its frequency. RAMBUS doesn't.

    Of course, during all this I was comparing RAMBUS to regular SDRAM, and RAMBUS doesn't compare very well at all. It wins a few points, but not many. Now, let's compare it to DDR SDRAM. DDR SDRAM is estimated to cost about 3% more to manufacture than regular SDRAM. 3%! RAMBUS costs at least 4-5 times as much! Now, PC2100 (133 mhz DDR, they rate it by the bandwidth and not the frequency for marketing reasons. Probably because they don't want the average consumer to be choosing between PC266 and PC800 not realizing what it means.) will offer more bandwidth than RAMBUS, still have the lower latencies of SDRAM, cost significantly less, and not be limited to 512 megs. Do you really want RAMBUS to win?

  • This sounds like what Transmeta does, too -- there may be some downside to companies which design but do not build the products they design, but for the most part I see only good things from it.

    Think about what the market would be like (not just in computers, in general) if the only ones who could get a patent are those who *already* had the capital to produce the result.

    It may be annoying and unsportsmanlike for Rambus to swing such agreements on manufacturers, at least if those manufacturers had been led to believe otherswise, but I don't see how inventing things (which doesn't have to involve actually *building* them) can be called intellectual parisitism.

    Division of labor is a good thing. The whole reason (theoretically) that we put up with patents at all is to enjoy the fruits of inventors' intellects in the form of ideas they've thought of, in exchange for not infringing upon it for a limited amount of time. Just like authors -- would you insist they self-publish?

  • From what I've heard, the licensing fees Rambus wants to impose on DDR - SDRAM aren't that high - only 1 or 2 percent, so that will hardly make DDR-SDRAM more expensive than RDRAM.

    Also, I don't think, Rambus will be able to make all DRAM manufacturers pay. The outcome of the lawsuits is anything but certain.

  • Rambus was bad enough trying to foist overpriced memory on us, but this is ridiculous....

    Now its "no one buys our RAM so we'll price-gouge SDRAM"

    This is the worst case scenario of "creating a level playing field" - everyone loses but Rambus

  • Even if this manages to survive, all it means is that manufacturers will rush the next generation of memory without patent problems into computers. It's happened before, and it'll happen again. I seem to recall IBM tried to squeeze the industry with Microchannel and Apple tried to squeeze with Firewire. The industry will survive.


  • I can remember when a friend of mine purchased 1 meg of ram for $150 dollars. This was in 1991.

    I can remember when it broke the $100/meg barrier.

    I can remember when it broke the $50.meg barrier. I bought four megs of RAM.

    Now that it is in the $1/meg range, I bought 128 megs

    Thing about what it costs now, and will cost if Rambus succeeds. They will have their day in the spotlight, and then they will be replaced with the next technology.

    If they succeed I see DDR staying in th $3-5/meg range for a while, but eventually it will have to come down to compete.

  • by len(*jameson); ( 202702 ) on Sunday June 25, 2000 @06:12AM (#977554)
    If this isn't the clearest example of anti-comptetitive practices I've seen in recent years, then maybe I'm missing the point.

    No doubt the DOJ will step in 5 years from now after Rambus barely exists and we're on to some new, non sucky, memory type and say "Hey - remember when you were screwing people, well now we're going to get you."

    Thanks DOJ. For nuthin'.

  • Perhaps now bloatware companies (MS?) will have to redesign their software so that the RAM requirements are not doubled with each release.

    Otherwise the minimum standard for Windows NT 6^H^H^H^H2001^H, ummm, I mean Windows .NET, will be like 1024 MB RAM.

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Sunday June 25, 2000 @08:47AM (#977561)
    > 'I wouldn't argue with that conclusion.'

    Ah, another case of patents promoting the Progress of Science and the useful Arts, eh?

  • by doogieh ( 37062 ) on Sunday June 25, 2000 @08:54AM (#977562) Homepage
    Unfortunately, if the Rambus patent portfolio is valid, they can do whatever they want with "immunity" to US antitrut laws.

    About a year ago, the US Federal Circuit (the US court with jurisdiction over patent appeals, answerable only to the US Supreme Court) decided that enforcement of a valid patent can never be an antitrust violation.

    The decision was Intergraph v. Intel [].

    This means the best way to resolve this is finding prior art; one bit of prior art has been found over at [].

  • I don't think it's so clear cut that there is an anti-trust case here. Patents are *supposed* to give the owner a time-limited monopoly, so Rambus (if it sucessfully defends the patents, which it has appeared to) isn't doing anything illegal.

  • Prosecuting only *4* major Sherman-Act antitrust cases in a century is hardly 'micromanagement'.

    If you want to see real micromanagement of economy then you are welcome to the EU. In the EU the Microsoft trial would be a matter of about 3-4 weeks, and Bill Gates would already sit in jail for lying under oath and criminal contempt of court.

  • I definately agree that RDRAM is not worth the money. But I know companies that shell out mega bucks on name brand server equipment because they can't afford to do any less, so it's not really an issue.

    I'm not fully understanding why there is a memory size limit. I know that you can do 1, 2 and 4 channel RAMBUS configurations. I don't know if it's possible to do more ( seems likely that you should, at least in custom boards ). It would make sence to me that additional channels should be completely independant and therefore there would be no theoretical limit to the size. Thinking in terms of a SUN server where they design them from scratch, only customizing the back-plane, etc. You should be able to make a rack-based server that could have attached memory channels. This would help dessipate the heat ( by seperating them ) and if done in a sufficiently modualar and heirarchical approach, you should be able to have as much memory as you can afford ( at this point, the memory would be the least of your costs ). From what I've read ( mainly on Toms Hardware, and the like ), the timing limitiations are because each chip has to ( at boot time ) figure out the longest possible probagation path and sync itself accordingly. I believe the RDRAMS ( I can't remember from RIMMS, modules, etc ) are kind of daisy chainned, which means that the signal has to probagate through each device on a channel, and therefore the more memory chips you add ( RIMMS I believe ), the slower that channel. There's a max probagation delay that you can achieve, so depending on the setup of the memory modules, there's a max memory size that a channel can hold. I am not aware of any inter-channel dependancy, so you should be able to go as wide as necessary, though this adds incredible expense to the system.
    High performance systems, however, tend to spend a lot of money on the memory subsytem. I remember studying the SGI, HP and SUN setups, where you'd have many interleaved channels. It's really just a matter of what becomes the mainstream. And it looks like 1, 2 and 4 will be it ( just like 1, 2 and 4 CPU configurations ). I can't imagine that you'd have the same sort of problems with many independent channels as you would many independent CPU's. The only bandwidth you're really fighting over is the inside of the chipset, and you can cheaply splurge there( especially since your wire-count is drastically reduced ). 4 16bit RAMBUS channels shouldn't be many more wires than a single SDRAM channel. I'd be interested in learning more about the limitations though.

    Onto some of your other points. The I believe that the RAMBUS guys knew that they'd have latency problems from the start ( not that you made any inference on the matter ). Intel has been working that problem for years. Their solution is making latency tolerant devices. Latency from a slow-responding memory device running at clock speed is no different than fast responding SRAM that's clocked 1/12 of your CPU on average ( since on average you'll have to wait 6 cycles before it can hear you, then you'll have to wait an additional 6 cycles before it can transmit ( even after it has a response ) ). DDR-SDRAM alleviates the problem at least, but as far as I know, it's still pipelined and therefore does not provide the best possible latency. Still, I belive it's significantly less than that of RDRAM so DDR wins this battle.

    I must admit a 16bit bus could almost only justify itself if it were cheaper or easier to manufacture. You're needlessly adding delay ( albeit at 800MHZ on an 800MHZ machine, this should be negligable ). The fact that it's so many times more expensive is just an insult to everyone ( though I honestly believe this is an economy of scale, and as with my article, reaching a critical mass would mean signifcantly more affordable system ). As with the above, the real benifit is probably in the ability to multiplex many channels. 4 168pin devices, for example, would be a nightmare to multiplex.

    If nothing else, the excessive heat is unbelievable. The design spends great length discussing the idle and sleep modes which are used to keep the devices from overheating!! Those sleep modes wind up causes significant latencies, especially since I've gotten the impression that a given channel can only have 1 active RIMM(?) at a time. Therefore a significantly loaded server is going to be spending almost all it's time RIMM thrashing.

    Finally, in response to "do I really want RAMBUS to win". Of course not; my silver-lining was really that we _might_ get another [superior] technology to win out that would not otherwise have gotten a chance. Will RAMBUS be shoved down our throats? Of course. Will people buy into it. Well, they're already doing so ( either by ignorance, or because their particular app is well suited to RAMBUS ). Will I personally ever buy RAMBUS, or would I ever recommend a friend to do so? Not unless all other options are exhasted.. which I guess means, maybe.

  • It's important to note that the Microsoft action got only possible *BECAUSE* Microsoft has a OS monopoly. The DOJ *CANNOT* prosecute any non-monopoly US company for anticompetitive practices, barring a few very basic practices like price fixing. Rambus is far from being a monopoly in the RAM market. US antitrust laws are so weak that it's scary. Ask the GOP and their 'big business -friendly' antitrust policy why there are no tough pro-compentition laws, and why there are more and more big-business-protecting laws passed like UCITA. Ask the GOP why the budget of the DOJ antitrust division got frozen. (despite much heavier merger activity, the division's budget did not rise accordingly.)

  • No. The US constitution grants you no such thing. Read what you wrote again. Congress shall have Power ... To Promote the Progress of Science...

    It says _nothing_ about any right to charge what you want for what you claim to have invented. ONLY that congress shall have to power to promote the progress of science and useful arts, through permitting you exclusively to charge for your supposed invention.

    The problem is that patents and copyright in the current extreme are so horribly abused that they very likely do not promote invention or the creation of art, but rather hinder it.

    And, the constitution does NOT say 'The congress shall have the Power ... To Supress the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by allowing dubious claimants to extort money through litigational blackmail from inventors'.
  • I was wondering how an IP company with no fab could end up with sweeping patents on all the current memory designs: SDRAM, DDR, RDRAM, etc. How could they do all the work needed to create these technologies, and what was the rest of the industry doing at the time?

    The answer is simple. Outright theft. The Register posted an article on Hitachi's response to the Rambus suit. Rambus stole the work of the JEDEC community and patented the information obtained in the meetings.

    You can read the article (in two parts) starting at []

    Sounds like they took a page from the Microsoft operating manual.
  • RAMBUS must know that there is prior art that weakens their claim.

    Last time around AMD and DEC complained about certain anti-competitive aspects of Intel's behaviour regarding processor patents and other IP. Intel settled and promised to be good, but now they seem to be up to their old tricks again. I can smell another antitrust suit coming.
  • Sounds like you are too easily confused.

    If you take the view that what you believe is right, and what you do not is not, then of course the Constitution can not sway you one way or the other.

    The Constitution is a consensus instrument, of course, and from that it draws both its persuasive strength and its weaknesses. If the Oracle of Right holds too small a minority view, it is true, the document will not be changed appropriately.

    In your supposedly "damning" example, however, this was not the case. Eventually, the majority view did prevail. That may constitute a "might makes right" view, indeed, but such is the nature of majority rule, and of supermajority rule to amend a Constitution. We check that majority right by providing limits, as in the bill of rights, and have faith that the rest will take care of itself.

    It may not be the best way, but in truth, I don't know of a better way. I, for one, think the Constitution is a deep, wondrous instrument. Whatever its historical flaws, it seems to have been self-healing over time. As between its dicta, and your undifferentiated assertions as to what is "right," I for one know which is the more persuasive.

    You argue against the Constitution by quoting language that has been amended out or rendered legally obsolete. Not the strongest argument, IMHO.
  • by malkavian ( 9512 ) on Sunday June 25, 2000 @06:51AM (#977604) Homepage
    Strictly speaking, this is all no longer capitalism. Capitalism is where the market forces prevail. Good, well marketed products succeed, where shoddy products don't grab the consumer heart, and so fail. Capitalism isn't such a bad thing really. It forces innovation (real innovation) and evolution. This, however is a corruption of capitalism. Law has been applied to stifle the growth aspect of the capitalist system. No longer do companies have to fight their competition for the best product, or the best angle on the product. They simply pay lawyers to 'nobble' the competition, and prevent them from competing. This nullifies the effect of market forces, as customers are no longer allowed to buy the best product from the person who finds the way to produce it at the most efficient cost. It all comes down to who has the most expensive lawyers that allows the public to buy what they think they want the public to buy. Other options become illegal (read 'unlicenced applications of patents'). Personally, I think capitalism is ok.. I think this bastardised hybrid is far from ok. A small dash of common sense and looking beyond the end of their noses and past sacrificing all for immediate gain would serve these companies in good stead. I can but keep my fingers crossed that they start to look this direction. Malk

We can found no scientific discipline, nor a healthy profession on the technical mistakes of the Department of Defense and IBM. -- Edsger Dijkstra