How does computer memory work?

by techtiptom

Originally posted to wibc.com on 12/06/2011

How does computer memory work?

Submitted by Rodney

A good example of the parts of the computer:
You = CPU
your computer desktop = memory
your computer desk drawers = hard drive

You only have so much usable surface are on the top of the desk so that is constantly being cleaned off (removed from memory) because you can’t read papers underneath other papers, and stuff that is not immediately needed is put into the drawers (hard drive).  It’s all matter of give and take – memory (desktop space) is at a premium (costs way more than the space on a hard drive) but getting stuff from the drawers is slow so you want the most used stuff on the desktop (in memory.) Trade-offs are necessary.

Each program and piece of data takes space, either in memory or on the hard drive.

Computer memory consists of rows and columns of tiny transistors (junction nodes) where electrical energy is at a certain level or it’s at zero – say 3v on one transistor that is “on”, 0.5v on the next transistor that is “off”. Memory is binary – a sequence of 0’s and 1′ – off or on. It is broken into bits (one 1 or 0), nibbles (4 ones or zeros), bytes (8 ones or zeros) and so on (kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes, petabytes…)

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