D-Link switch and ecc-memory.

Gerry Creager N5JXS gerry at cs.tamu.edu
Wed Jan 17 03:09:44 EST 2001

Thomas Lovie wrote:
> Regarding spurious bit-flips in memory, Greg Lindahl writes:
> > Josip neglected to mention that he is at sea level. If you are at a higher
> > altitude, you will see more errors.
> >
> Really, why would this be the case?  Surely the boiling temperature of water
> would have nothing to do with it.  Would the relative amount of atmosphere
> that high energy electro-magnetic radiation has to go through be the
> dominating effect here?  Is it radiation that causes these errors anyways?

When I was working with satellite design, this was, indeed, a real
problem.  Most of the satellite work I've done has been in connection
with the Amateur Radio OSCAR series, but the results are very real.  For
a number of years, the best IC technology for spaceborne applications
was CMOS, because of its relative indifference to high-energy particle
bombardment.  Indeed, a fairly unsophistcated CPU, the RCA 1802, was the
workhorse, not only for the OSCARs but a number of commercial internal
housekeeping unit processors on much more "sophisticated" birds.  In the
last 10-15 years, Harris Semiconductors, and more recently LANL, have
done some significant work in radiation-hardening NMOS and PMOS
circuitry, thus "mainstreaming" the iAPx86 architechture for space

As die sizes, and thus, trace sized, decrease, the potential for a high
energy particle to do significant single event or even permanent damage
to CPSs and memory increases.  It was once suggested that instead of
reaching a relativity limit on substrate, we'd sooner reach a point
where ionizing radiation would be able to stop general development of
ICs for computer applications... simply because we had made the ICs so
small and fast.

Gerry Creager
Texas A&M University

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