Computer Memory

Computer Memory is any physical device in a computer that is used to store data or instructions to be executed (programs) either temporarily or permanently. Memory chips are used for the purpose of storing and retrieving the data. These devices include RAM, cache memory, hard drives and virtual memory. For example, Random Access Memory (RAM) is a type of volatile memory that stores the information on an integrated circuit, which is then used by the operating system, software, hardware, or the user.

Computer device used for storing data represents the information in binary code that is written as a sequence of 0s and 1s. Memory is usually measured in multiples of bytes. For instance, a computer with 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM can hold approximately 1 billion bytes, or characters, of information. This is the total temporary workspace available on that computer.

Most of the new computers users are confused with what parts of the computer are used as memory. Even though both the hard drive and RAM are considered as memory generally, RAM is more appropriately referred as “memory” or “primary memory” and a hard drive as “storage” or “secondary storage” device but not memory.

When any program like Internet browser is open, it will be loaded from your hard drive and is placed into RAM. This allows the program to communicate with the processor at higher speeds. Any data that is stored on your computer like a picture or video will be first sent to the hard drive for storage and then placed into the RAM when needed.

Forms of Computer Memory

Computer Memory can be of two forms like volatile or non-volatile memory.

  • Volatile memory: It is a temporary memory that stores the data until the computer or hardware device loses power, once the power is turned off, the data will be lost. Computer RAM is a good example where once your computer freezes or reboots while working on a program, all your data that hasn't been saved will be lost.
  • Non-volatile memory: This is memory retains its contents even when the power is lost. An example of such memory is Flash memory. It is typically used for small devices such as digital cameras, USB keychain drives, and portable music players like the iPod Nano etc.

Types of Memory

There are many types of computer memory in a computer that include ROM, PROM, and EPROM etc.

Random Access Memory (RAM)

RAM is the main memory where the user can read and write data. It is of volatile memory, which means requires a steady flow of electricity to store its contents. As soon as the power is turned off, whatever data was in RAM will be lost.

Read Only Memory (ROM)

This type of memory contains the start-up information (instructions to start) for the computer. It permits the user only to read data from it and not to write.

Programmable Read-Only Memory (PROM)

PROM is a memory chip that is used to store a program. Once the data is stored on PROMs, the data cannot be erased or written to it again.

Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EPROM)

EPROM is a special type of PROM wherein the data written can be deleted through exposure to ultraviolet light. It is type of non-volatile memory.

Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM)

EEPROM is also a type of PROM where by using an electrical charge the data can be erased. This type of memory is more commonly known as “flash” memory and is often used in portable music devices.

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