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The Random Access Memory

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RAM (random access memory) is the memory that the computer can use ‘randomly’, this is the memory that is kept available for programs to use – the memory available is measured in gigabytes (GB) and speed is measured in megahertz. This means the more RAM a computer has, the faster it will operate and will be able to operate more software at the same time, this memory is known as volatile memory as it is lost when the system is powered off, which is why we save our games/work and they go to storage – the hard drive. Unlike ROM (read only memory), which cannot be lost or altered. ROM does basic, necessary functions such as booting up a computer system as it contains the BIOS. The BIOS on the ROM chip is a collection of software utilities that boots up the system every time it is turned on while checking the hardware configuration against the configuration data called the POST process (power on self-test).

There are a number of different types of RAM; dynamic RAM (DRAM) is memory that stores bits of data in cells consisting of capacitors and transistors, which millions of the cells make up the RAM – the memory must be repeatedly refreshed, or it will forget the data it was holding, this process takes more time and slows down the memory. On the other hand, static RAM (SRAM) is made up of 4/6 transistors plus wiring and retains its data in its memory as long as the computer has power, so it does not need to be refreshed, which makes it faster than DRAM but also more expensive.

Rambus dynamic RAM uses a RAM controller and bus connected directly to the processor and other devices that require it and provides a consistent 1.6 GB per second of memory bandwidth that runs at 800 MHz; this type of memory was useful in earlier gaming platforms like the N64. However, modern memory has used variations of these types to create faster, more efficient forms of RAM. Synchronous dynamic RAM SDRAM was a variation in the 1990s that allowed the memory’s responses to be synchronised to controls inputs in the data buses – this meant it could queue processes up whilst a process is being completed.

Double date rate (DDR) was introduced in 2000 which allowed the memory to transfer data on the falling as well as the rising edges of the clock signal so that it was continuous and doubled the transfer rate and allowed RAM to run at a lower clock rates to use fewer volts but still keep up higher transfer speeds. The DDR versions of RAM have been upgraded into their fourth version today by expanding on the existing idea, the DDR4 RAM allows up to twice as much GB (4-16 GB), doubled data rates, and a lower voltage required to run. For examples of different RAM usage, the Samsung Galaxy S7 uses 4 GB of DDR4 RAM, and Nintendo 3DS XL uses 128 MB of FCRAM (a type of SDRAM developed by Fujitsu and Toshiba). While the PS4 Pro uses GDDR5 8 GB RAM which is a type of RAM that only works for graphics cards and desktop PCs can have as much RAM as the motherboard and OS can support but adding more than necessary does not make a computer faster.

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