What Is Random Access Memory (Ram)?
Explains what RAM is. Explores the different types of RAM and their use.
One of the most important components in a computer is the memory. Every time a computer is started up, programs are loaded into memory. The memory into where these programs are loaded is called RAM. RAM is an acronym for Random Access Memory. It is from the RAM that most programs perform their functions and operate to give the user the required results. Most RAM memory is housed in chips or integrated circuits (ICs) that are either soldered or mounted onto the motherboard of the computer.
There are generally a few types of RAM. The two most common types of RAM are DRAM and SRAM. DRAM, or Dynamic RAM, is the slower of the two. This is because DRAM needs to be refreshed thousands of times per second or wise it will lose its contents. SRAM, or Static RAM, on the other hand, does not need to be refreshed like DRAM. This gives SRAM faster access time (the time it takes to locate and read one unit of memory). SRAM access times is only around 10 nanoseconds (or 10 billionths of a second) compared to the DRAM’s access time of 60 nanoseconds. As such, SRAM is more superior to DRAM and that is why it is also more expansive.
Besides DRAM and SRAM, VRAM and WRAM are also quite common. VRAM, or Video RAM, is used mainly for monitors or display terminals. VRAM stores the contents or what needs to be displayed on the monitor while at the same time updating in constantly. This makes it more efficient compared to having the video display use conventional RAM instead. WRAM, or Windows RAM, is an advancement to VRAM. It functions the same as VRAM but is more efficient and faster that VRAM and is used for optimum performance in Windows based computers.
All of the RAMs discussed so far are volatile. By volatile it means that they depend on a constant supply of electrical energy to sustain their information. When electrical power is disconnected, all these RAMs will loose their information. No information will remain inside of them when the power is restored. It is thus often advisable to “save” our work periodically and transfer it from RAM into permanent storage in the hard disk to avoid losing it should there be a power outage.
However, not all RAM are volatile. NVRAM, or Non-Volatile RAM, is a group of memory that retains its information even when the power is turned off. One of the ways to achieve NVRAM is to take conventional RAM like VRAM and attach it to a permanent power source like a battery. Another kind of NVRAM is EEPROM chips. EEPROM are Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory. All such a nasty sounding name means is that EEPROM does not need electrical energy to retain its content. Even without power supply EEPROM will retain its information. When power is restored, the user has the option to read the contents or change it as he/she wishes.
Most of the memory used in the computer will be of the DRAM or SRAM type. This is because it is where most of the programs are run and data processed. The DRAM or SRAM is also what is generally referred to when memory or “RAM” is mentioned in computer discussions. Both VRAM and DRAM are therefore often called as the computer's “main memory”. VRAM and WRAM will be the next large bundle of RAM used in computers since today’s graphic intensive applications require a fast monitor. NVRAM are found in small amounts, mostly in chips mounted on the motherboard or expansion cards within the computer.