Wednesday, January 16, 2008

ROM vs. RAM vs. Flash

Yesterday I had to try to explain the differences between RAM and ROM to someone. I realized that it is a topic that few end-users understand. So, for those of you who already know much about computer memory, I hope you will allow me an opportunity to paint a large brush in relating to the topic for those who are not as well-informed. While the title of today's blog may sound like some sort of Japanese monster movie or wrestling tag team, it all refers to memory. "Memory" is not just for Cats anymore. I've seen several very interesting new products on TV from the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show and it appears that flash memory is going to be making our lives much more interesting in the coming year. For those of you who have "jump" or flash drives, the future is already here. The fact is that flash, a non-volatile memory (which doesn't require an electrical source) that can be erased and reprogrammed in large blocks can now extend high definition home video recording time up to two hours. That is absolutely incredible when you think about it. Many of us already use similar SD memory chips in our digital cameras, but the video capabilities have always been limited. The fact is that great strides in improvement to rmemory have occurred since the early days of read only memory (ROM) still found on computer system boards (also called motherboards). In the last decade EPROM and EEPROM (programable ROM) have replaced the earlier non-modifiable varieties on system boards, which now allows this type of memory to be "flashed" and updated. But when it comes to memory in computers, most of us still refer to the volatile memory (requires an electrical source) called random access memory (or RAM). Beefed-up memory in the newer memory-hogging operating systems (Windows XP and Vista) is what helps many computers truly multi-task compared to the slow, plodding varieties of yesteryear (e.g. Windows 95, 98, Millennium Edition and Apple 9.x). When it comes to memory, though, more is better. Typically, one Gigabyte (1,000 Megabytes) is recommended by knowledgable people for Windows Vista, even though the minimum recommended by Microsoft is half that. Two Gigabytes of memory is probably the best bet even though it will cost a little bit more on the front end when assembling a system. Suffice it to say that RAM has improved immeasurably since the early days of single inline memory modules (SIMMs) and dual inline memory modules (DIMMs) at relatively slow bus speeds of 66 MHz to 100 MHz and 133 MHz. Static RAM (SRAM) has given way to dynamic RAM (DRAM) and it would seem that computer data storage will continue to increase in the years to come. Apple users will note that the OS X and the new Leopard OS all require a good deal of memory too, but the benefits of increasing RAM far outweigh the initial costs. If in doubt, spend the money and don't look back. Your computers will love you for it. And you in turn will love them back too.

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