Ferrite core memory

(Or “core”) An early form of non-volatile storage built (by hand) from tiny rings of magnetisable material threaded onto very fine wire to form large (e.g. 13″x13″ or more) rectangluar arrays. Each core stored one bit of data. These were sandwiched between printed circuit boards(?). Sets of wires ran horizontally and vertically and where a vertical and horizontal wire crossed, a core had both wires threaded through it.
A single core could be selected and magnetised by passing sufficient current through its horizontal and vertical wires. A core would retain its magnetisation until it was re-magnetised. The two possible polarities of magnetisation were used to represent the binary values zero and one.
A third “sense” wire, passed through the core and, if the magnetisation of the core was changed, a small pulse would be induced in the sense wire which could be detected and used to deduce the core’s original state.
Some core memory was immersed in a bath of heated oil to improve its performance.
Core memory was rendered obsolete by semiconductor memory.
For example, the 1970s-era NCR 499 had two boards, each with 16 kilobytes of core memory.


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