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What Is Random Access Memory (RAM)? History Of Computer Memory RAM Timeline And Types Of RAM

Referencing Styles : APA | Pages : 1

The term RAM stands for Random Access Memory. They contain multiplexing and de-multiplexing circuitry for connecting data lines with addressed storage spaces to perform reading and writing based operations. In general, multiple bits of storage space get accessed by one address. Multiple data lines are often found among RAM devices which are usually denoted as ‘8-bit’ devices, ‘16-bit’ devices and so on.

RAM or Random Access Memory is that hardware in devices like desktops, laptops, workstations and servers where the processes like operating system or OS, application programs and associated data run on when being actively used such that the data becomes quickly reachable to the processor of the device. RAM is considered to be the main memory in computers, and this memory is way faster in read based and write based operations than the other types of memory storage available, like the hard disk drive or HDD, solid state drive or SSD and even optical drives like CD-RW drives, DVD-RW drives or Blu-ray burners where RW stands for rewriteable and only R denotes recordable.

Since Random Access Memory (RAM) is volatile, it means data can only be stored within the RAM chips for the time the computer stays on and this data is lost whenever the computer gets turned off. When this computer again gets restarted, the OS and all other startup files get loaded again into the RAM generally from HDDs or SSDs or both depending on the configuration of the system. Owing to the volatile nature, RAM cannot store any data on a permanent basis. In other words RAM is comparable with short term memory of a person while the hard drive refers to the long-term memory of the same person. Short-term memory is focused on immediate work, but it can only keep a limited number of facts in view at any one time. When a person's short-term memory fills up, it can be refreshed with facts stored in the brain's long-term memory. Computers also happen to work in similar ways. When the RAM gets saturated with data, the processor of the system needs to repeatedly opt to use the hard disk spaces for storing older data in RAM with newer data for processing. Since the secondary memory devices perform significantly slower than the main memory the computer operations get slowed by this process.

RAM first got practically used in the form of Williams tube starting from 1947. This would store data by means of electrical charged spots on cathode ray tubes. As electron beams from the CRT is able to read as well as write spots on these tubes in whatever order required, they happened to be random access memory. Capacities of the Williams tube would range from few hundred to thousand bits, yet they came as smaller in size compared to earlier solutions, much faster as also showed higher power efficiency compared to the individual vacuum tube latches. These were developed in England at University of Manchester and these Williams tubes would provide the necessary media through which it became possible to create the first program that could be stored electronically and implement it in Manchester Baby computer. This system would be able run a program successfully for the first time on 21st of June in 1948. In other words, it was the Williams tube memory that was getting designed for this Baby computer that is the Baby computer was only the testbed for demonstrating reliability of this memory. Later Magnetic core memory got invented towards the end of 1947 and would continue getting developed up to the middle of 1970s. Thus, magnetic core found it place as a widespread form of RAM memory by relying heavily on arrays of multiple magnetized rings.

At Present, these RAM modules come as integrated circuits or IC in short. RAM is usually related to memory that are of volatile type for example DRAM. Here, stored information gets lost whenever power supply is stopped. Despite development of non-volatile RAM have been developed volatile RAM account for most of the modules. Non-volatile memories do exist in other forms which can allow random accesses of read based tasks, but they may not allow to perform write or might come with other sets of limitations within them. These other memory modules mainly refer to most of the ROM and even a flash memory that goes by the name NOR-Flash.

Two of the key types of volatile RAM built on semiconductors are the dynamic random-access memory or DRAM and static random-access memory or SRAM. These semiconductor based  RAM have found commercial use since the year of 1965 when the System/360 Model 95 systems from IBM or International Business Machine chose to use the SP95 SRAM chips provided by Scientific Data Systems and Signetics while Toshiba would use DRAM memory modules for their electronic calculator Toscal BC-1411. However the first DRAM IC to be commercially used was Intel 1103 which got launched in the month of October in the year 1970. Later on, in the year 1992 Samsung debuted their SDRAM chip that is Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory. The original forms of single data rate SDRAM or SDR SDRAM would quickly reach their limit. By the year of 2000, the inception of double data rate synchronous Random Access Memory or DDR SRAM got developed and changed the memory landscape. In these module the data would move twice per every clock cycle that is once at the start as also once at the end.

From then on, DDR SDRAM has been continuously evolving. It has already undergone three advancements, namely DDR2, DDR3 and DDR4 and each of these iterations have ushered significant increases in overall throughput of data, higher speeds, as also reductions in power consumption and voltages used. Yet, each of these DDR versions have failed to be compatible with previous versions as with every iteration handling of larger sets of data would be carried out in batches. Today news and reports are popping up regarding release of DDR5 RAM as early as next year. The independent semiconductor engineering and trade organization JEDEC or Joint Electron Device Engineering Council works as the standardization body for representing all avenues of the electronics industry. The organizations sets standards for specifying the units, terms and other definitions in the semiconductor industry and the JEDEC memory standards are set of specifications for semiconductor based memory circuits. Though they had planned to release the full specifications for DDR5 in 2018, till May of 2019, the official reports state that the body is yet to finalize the DDR5 iteration. Another form of RAM called GDDR or Graphics Double Data Rate refers to those SDRAM being used for by graphics and video cards. This has already seen 6 iteration of advancements making GDDR6 the leading memory type for use by GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) that are built on the PCBs or printed Circuit Boards of these cards. When it comes to graphics cards, another form of memory that requires to be mentioned is the virtual memory. This is the memory which the graphic cards shares from the secondary memory. When the Video RAM frame buffer that is the total capacity of GDDR RAM the GPU comes with is filled out, the graphics need to access additional memory for displaying visual data. This is when the memory shared from the secondary memory is used. For regular RAM, where secondary memory and page file memory to be made available can vary when installed memory capacity gets saturated. For graphics cards virtual memory is always fixed.    

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