Thursday, August 28, 2008

Random access memory

Random access memory (usually known by its acronym, RAM) is a type of computer data storage. Today it takes the form of integrated circuits that allow the stored data to be accessed in any order, i.e. at random. The word random thus refers to the fact that any piece of data can be returned in a constant time, regardless of its physical location and whether or not it is related to the previous piece of data.This contrasts with storage mechanisms such as tapes, magnetic discs and optical discs, which rely on the physical movement of the recording medium or a reading head. In these devices, the movement takes longer than the data transfer, and the retrieval time varies depending on the physical location of the next item.

An early type of widespread writable random access memory was the magnetic core memory, developed in 1949-1951, and subsequently used in most computers up until the development of the static and dynamic integrated RAM circuits in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Before this, computers used relays, delay lines or various kinds of vacuum tube arrangements to implement "main" memory functions (i.e. hundreds or thousands of bits), some of which were random access, some not. Latches built out of vacuum tube triodes, and later, out of discrete transistors, were used for smaller and faster memories such as registers and (random access) register banks. Prior to the development of integrated ROM circuits, permanent (or read-only) random access memory was often constructed using semiconductor diode matrixes driven by address decoders.

Types of RAM:
RAM generally store a bit of data in either the state of a flip-flop, as in SRAM (static RAM), or as a charge in a capacitor (or transistor gate), as in DRAM (dynamic RAM), EPROM, EEPROM and Flash. Some types have circuitry to detect and/or correct random faults called memory errors in the stored data, using parity bits or error correction codes. RAM of the read-only type, ROM, instead uses a metal mask to permanently enable/disable selected transistors, instead of storing a charge in them.

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