Memory, in its most generic form, is an object, a process, an idea and an enigma. In the specific case of memory of machines, the search for novel, dense, quick-access, non-volatile and multifunctional memory continues at a rapid pace in order to satisfy the ever-increasing demands of large-scale computing and information storage. Complementing this search are basic questions of what constitutes robust memory and how to optimise its utility. Recent developments in experimental techniques allow one to “see” the basic elements of machine memory and to probe their robustness in space and time. For a specific form of physical memory, thought of as an “object”, it appears, perhaps counter-intuitively, that optimally imperfect states of matter are more useful for robust and reliable memory because of their ability to ‘see, remember and forget, as needed’.