What is RAM (Random Access Memory), How does RAM work?. In the previous articles, we have given What is IP and What is a VPN. Today we are discussing what is RAM, how does it work etc. What is meant by memory? The basic purpose of memory—human or machine—is to keep a record of information for a period of time. One of the really noticeable things about human memory is that it’s extremely good at forgetting. That sounds like a major defect until you consider that we can only pay attention to so many things at once. In other words, forgetting is most likely a clever tactic humans have evolved that helps us to focus on the things that are immediately relevant and important in the endless clutter of our everyday lives—a way of concentrating on what really matters. Forgetting is like turning out old junk from your closet to make room for new stuff.
Computers don’t remember or forget things the way that human brains do. Computers work in binary they either know something or they don’t—and once they’ve learned, barring some sort of catastrophic failure, they generally don’t forget. Humans are different. We can recognize things or feel certain that we know something without necessarily being able to recollect them. Unlike computers, humans can forget… remember… forget… remember… making memory seem more like art or magic than science or technology.
The chips that make up a computer’s internal memory come in two broad flavors known as RAM (random access memory) and ROM (read-only memory). RAM chips remember things only while a computer is powered on, so they’re used for storing whatever a computer is working on in the very short term
Random access memory (RAM) is the best-known form of computer memory. RAM is considered “random access” because you can access any memory cell directly if you know the row and column that intersect at that cell.
Important Properties of RAM
- RAM is blazing fast compared to hard drives – Even the latest and greatest solid state drives are embarrassingly slow when pitted against RAM. While top end solid state drives can achieve transfer rates of more than 1,000 MB/s, modern RAM modules are already hitting speeds in excess of 15,000 MB/s.
- RAM storage is volatile (temporary) – Any data stored in RAM will be lost once the computer is turned off. Comparing computer storage to the human brain, RAM works like short term memory while hard drives resemble our long-term memories.
- RAM is more expensive than hard drives – Even with RAM prices tumbling to new lows with each passing year, RAM will always cost more per gigabyte. This is to be expected given RAM’s massive speed advantage. Let’s compare the average prices of RAM vs hard drives at the time of writing
DRAM and SRAM
RAM comes in two main varieties called DRAM (dynamic RAM) and SRAM (static RAM). DRAM is the less expensive of the two and has a higher density (packs more data into a smaller space) than SRAM, so it’s used for most of the internal memory you find in PCs, games consoles, and so on. SRAM is faster and uses less power than DRAM and, given its greater cost and lower density, is more likely to be used in the smaller, temporary, “working memories” (caches) that form part of a computer’s internal or external memories. It’s also widely used in portable gadgets such as cellphones, where minimizing power consumption (and maximizing battery life) is extremely important.
The differences between DRAM and SRAM arise from the way they’re built out of basic electronic components. Both types of RAM are volatile, but DRAM is also dynamic(it needs power to be zapped through it occasionally to keep its memory fresh) where SRAM is static (it doesn’t need “refreshing” in the same way). DRAM is denser (stores more information in less space) because it uses just one capacitor and one transistor to store each bit (binary digit) of information, where SRAM needs several transistors for each bit.
How RAM Works
Similar to a microprocessor, a memory chip is an integrated circuit (IC) made of millions of transistors and capacitors. In the most common form of computer memory, dynamic random access memory (DRAM), a transistor and a capacitor are paired to create a memory cell, which represents a single bit of data. The capacitor holds the bit of information — a 0 or a 1 (see How Bits and Bytes Work for information on bits). The transistor acts as a switch that lets the control circuitry on the memory chip read the capacitor or change its state.
A capacitor is like a small bucket that is able to store electrons. To store a 1 in the memory cell, the bucket is filled with electrons. To store a 0, it is emptied. The problem with the capacitor’s bucket is that it has a leak. In a matter of a few milliseconds, a full bucket becomes empty. Therefore, for dynamic memory to work, either the CPU or the memory controller has to come along and recharge all of the capacitors holding a 1 before they discharge. To do this, the memory controller reads the memory and then writes it right back. This refresh operation happens automatically thousands of times per second.
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