RAM (random access memory) is the place in a computer where the operating system, application programs, and data in current use are kept so that they can be quickly reached by the computer's processor. RAM is much faster to read from and write to than the other kinds of storage in a computer, the hard disk, floppy disk, and CD-ROM. However, the data in RAM stays there only as long as your computer is running. When you turn the computer off, RAM loses its data. When you turn your computer on again, your operating system and other files are once again loaded into RAM, usually from your hard disk.
RAM can be compared to a person's short-term memory and the hard disk to the long-term memory. The short-term memory focuses on work at hand, but can only keep so many facts in view at one time. If short-term memory fills up, your brain sometimes is able to refresh it from facts stored in long-term memory. A computer also works this way. If RAM fills up, the processor needs to continually go to the hard disk to overlay old data in RAM with new, slowing down the computer's operation. Unlike the hard disk which can become completely full of data so that it won't accept any more, RAM never runs out of memory. It keeps operating, but much more slowly than you may want it to.
There are two different types of RAM: DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) and SRAM (Static Random Access Memory). The two types differ in the technology they use to hold data, with DRAM being the more common type. In terms of speed, SRAM is faster. DRAM needs to be refreshed thousands of times per second while SRAM does not need to be refreshed, which is what makes it faster than DRAM. DRAM supports access times of about 60 nanoseconds, SRAM can give access times as low as 10 nanoseconds. Despite SRAM being faster, it's not as commonly used as DRAM because it's so much more expensive. Both types of RAM are volatile, meaning that they lose their contents when the power is turned off.
In common usage, the term RAM is synonymous with main memory, the memory available to programs. For example, a computer with 8MB RAM has approximately 8 million bytes of memory that programs can use. In contrast, ROM (read-only memory) refers to special memory used to store programs that boot the computer and perform diagnostics. Most personal computers have a small amount of ROM (a few thousand bytes). In fact, both types of memory (ROM and RAM) allow random access. To be precise, therefore, RAM should be referred to as read/write RAM and ROM as read-only RAM.
Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest