# Ram & Rom

Random access memory [RAM]

Pronounced ramm, acronym for random access memory, a type of computer memory that can be accessed randomly; that is, any byte of memory can be accessed without touching the preceding bytes. RAM is the most common type of memory found in computers and other devices, such as printers.

There are two different types of RAM: DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) and SRAM (Static Random Access Memory). The two types differ in the technology they use to hold data, with DRAM being the more common type. In terms of speed, SRAM is faster. DRAM needs to be refreshed thousands of times per second while SRAM does not need to be refreshed, which is what makes it faster than DRAM. DRAM supports access times of about 60 nanoseconds, SRAM can give access times as low as 10 nanoseconds. Despite SRAM being faster, it's not as commonly used as DRAM because it's so much more expensive. Both types of RAM are volatile, meaning that they lose their contents when the power is turned off. In common usage, the term RAM is synonymous with main memory, the memory available to programs. For example, a computer with 8MB RAM has approximately 8 million bytes of memory that programs can use. In contrast, ROM (read-only memory) refers to special memory used to store programs that boot the computer and perform diagnostics. Most personal computers have a small amount of ROM (a few thousand bytes). In fact, both types of memory (ROM and RAM) allow random access. To be precise, therefore, RAM should be referred to as read/write RAM and ROM as read-only RAM. See the "DRAM Memory Guide" in the Quick Reference section of Webopedia. This Webopedia Quick Reference offers general information on the two types of RAM and provide an overview on the common modules of each type.

is a class of storage media used in computers and other electronic devices. Data stored in ROM cannot be modified, or can be modified only slowly or with difficulty, so it is mainly used to distribute firmware (software that is very closely tied to specific hardware, and unlikely to need frequent updates).


In its strictest sense, ROM refers only to mask ROM (the oldest type of solid state ROM), which is fabricated with the desired data permanently stored in it, and thus can never be modified. However, more modern types such as EPROM and flash EEPROM can be erased and re-programmed multiple times; they are still described as "read-only memory"(ROM)[citation needed] because the reprogramming process is generally infrequent, comparatively slow, and often does not permit random access writes to individual memory locations. Despite the simplicity of mask ROM, economies of scale and field-programmability often make reprogrammable technologies more flexible and inexpensive, so mask ROM is rarely used in new products as of 2007.

History

Use for storing programs

Transformer matrix ROM (TROS), from the IBM System 360/20 • Diode matrix ROM, used in small amounts in many computers in the 1960s as well as electronic desk calculators and keyboard encoders for terminals. This ROM was programmed by installing discrete semiconductor diodes at selected locations between a matrix of word line traces and bit line traces on a printed circuit board. • Resistor, capacitor, or transformer matrix ROM, used in many computers until the 1970s. Like diode matrix ROM, it was programmed by placing components at selected locations between a matrix of word lines and bit lines. ENIAC's Function Tables were resistor matrix ROM, programmed by manually setting rotary switches. Various models of the IBM System/360 and complex peripheral devices stored their microcode in either capacitor (called BCROS for balanced capacitor read-only storage on the 360/50 & 360/65, or CCROS for card capacitor read-only Storage on the 360/30) or transformer (called TROS for transformer read-only storage on the 360/20, 360/40 and others) matrix ROM. • Core rope, a form of transformer matrix ROM technology used where size and/or weight were critical. This was used in NASA/MIT's Apollo Spacecraft Computers, DEC's PDP-8 computers, and other places. This type of ROM was programmed by hand by weaving "word line wires" inside or outside of ferrite transformer cores. • The perforated metal character mask ("stencil") in Charactron cathode ray tubes, which was used as ROM to shape a wide electron beam to form a selected character shape on the screen either for display or a scanned electron beam to form a selected character shape as an overlay on a video signal. Speed Reading Although the relative speed of RAM vs. ROM has varied over time, as of 2007 large RAM chips can be read faster than most ROMs. For this reason (and to allow uniform access), ROM content is sometimes copied to RAM or shadowed before its first use, and subsequently read from RAM. Writing For those types of ROM that can be electrically modified, writing speed is always much slower than reading speed, and it may need unusually high voltage, the movement of jumper plugs to apply write-enable signals, and special lock/unlock command codes. Modern NAND Flash achieves the highest write speeds of any rewritable ROM technology, with speeds as high as 15 MB/s (or 70 ns/bit), by allowing (needing) large blocks of memory cells to be written simultaneously.

Endurance and data retention


Because they are written by forcing electrons through a layer of electrical insulation onto a floating transistor gate, rewriteable ROMs can withstand only a limited number of write and erase cycles before the insulation is permanently damaged. In the earliest EAROMs, this might occur after as few as 1,000 write cycles, while in modern Flash EEPROM the endurance may exceed 1,000,000, but it is by no means infinite. This limited endurance, as well as the higher cost per bit, means that Flash-based storage is unlikely to completely supplant magnetic disk drives in the near future. The timespan over which a ROM remains accurately readable is not limited by write cycling. The data retention of EPROM, EAROM, EEPROM, and Flash may be limited by charge leaking from the floating gates of the memory cell transistors. Leakage is accelerated by high temperatures or radiation. Masked ROM and fuse/antifuse PROM do not suffer from this effect, as their data retention depends on physical rather than electrical permanence of the integrated circuit (although fuse re-growth was once a problem in some systems).