A memory device is defined as a piece of hardware that stores data. As our world is increasingly becoming digitized, more and more of our technological systems rely on memory devices to store pertinent information. In fact, computers, mobile phones, tablets, and many other everyday gadgets are equipped with memory devices. In this blog we will outline three main types of memory devices we encounter, those of which are SRAM, DRAM, and VRAM.
Before diving into the aforementioned memory types, you must familiarize yourself with two basic varieties of memory: primary (main) memory and secondary (external) memory. The former category encompasses more commonly known memory devices like Random Access Memory (RAM) and a number of Read-Only Memory (ROM) devices. The latter category, on other hand, includes hard disk drives (HDDs), solid-state drives (SSDs), optical discs, USB flash drives, SD cards, and others.
For the purpose of this blog, we will cover primary memory, the internal memory of a computer that can be directly accessed by its processor. Random Access Memory (RAM) which falls under this category is a read/write memory utilized to store data and run programs. It is considered volatile in nature as the data stored in RAM is often lost when the power is turned off.
Generally, RAM is stored on the motherboard in modules known as Dual Inline Memory Modules (DIMMs), and the speed and performance of a computer is linked to the size of the RAM. As such, a computer with more RAM can run more programs efficiently. Under the primary memory category, one can find Static RAM (SRAM), Dynamic RAM (DRAM), and Video RAM (VRAM) devices.
Invented by Robert H. Norman at Fairchild Semiconductor in 1963, SRAM utilizes sequential circuits, meaning that it does not need to be frequently refreshed. That being said, it is faster than DRAM, and it can be built into a microprocessor (internally) or on separate chips (externally). Due to its advantages in terms of speed, users and tech wizards often switch from DRAM to SRAM, but this comes at a steep price. To avoid the high cost, small amounts of SRAM can be added to provide improved speed performance. However, SRAM necessitates more parts and wiring, therefore, a SRAM cell takes up more space on a chip than a DRAM cell.
Invented by American electrical engineer Robert Dennard in 1968, DRAM uses capacitors and transistors to store data. As a result of the discharge of capacitors, DRAM must be refreshed with electricity every once and a while otherwise you will experience data loss. As a matter of fact, the name DRAM comes from the fact that the data in the DRAM deteriorates and becomes useless if it is not refreshed. Despite this, DRAM consists of a bulk of the RAM in all systems today. While it is the least expensive type, it is the slowest. Usually, most systems will feature 4 to 8 MB or more.
This last memory type is similar to DRAM with one major difference: it can be written to and read from simultaneously. This is especially useful when the video processor on a video card can read the image from Video RAM and transmit it to the screen without having to wait for the CPU to finish writing it. Because this feature is not advantageous for other parts of a computer, DRAM is typically only used for high-end video cards.
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