Those of us with older computers are sometimes greeted with the error message, “low RAM.” The “low RAM” message signals that something is wrong with our computer and it is time for a reboot. But what exactly is RAM and why does it get low? How vital is it to our computers and what types of RAM are out there?
RAM is an acronym for Random Access Memory, otherwise known as volatile memory. “Volatile” means that it only holds items in memory until it is reset. It is used by the computer system to store data for processing by the computer’s central processing unit or CPU. Basically, RAM stores data in memory grids (think of them as cells in a spreadsheet) until the CPU needs them, after which they are accessed and transferred at random to the processor for processing by the computer’s software. Basically, RAM is used to access whatever task you are working on at the moment. Hence where the low RAM message comes in. When you have engaged in too many tasks on an older computer, the RAM is unable to engage anymore and advises you to shut down the computer. Shutting down the computer causes all the data stored in the computer’s RAM to be lost, thus readying the RAM to process more tasks for the next time you turn the computer on.
There are different kinds of RAM, with one of the most useful being DDR SDRAM. DDR SDRAM is merely a short way to say double-data-rate synchronous dynamic random access memory. Clearly calling it DDR SDRAM, though still rather a long acronym, is much preferred. DDR SDRAM is the successor to SDRAM (which stands for synchronous dynamic random access memory)and achieves nearly twice the bandwidth speed of its predecessor.
DDR SDRAM allows data to be transferred 64 bits at a time, meaning, for the layman, that a computer equipped with DDR SDRAM can execute tasks exponentially faster than older types of RAM. As great as it sounds though, with the speed at which technological innovation moves, DDR SDRAM has already been surpassed by DDR2 SDRAM. If you ever see the acronym “DDR1 SDRAM” it is referring to DDR SDRAM, but in context of its even more powerful predecessor.
DDR SDRAM allows applications to transfer data two ways – on both the rising and falling edges of a computer’s clock signal. In this way, instead of just transferring data one way, it allows for vastly higher bandwidth and improved performance over DDR SDRAM’s predecessor, SD RAM.
Because DDR SDRAM has proven to be exponentially faster and more efficient than its predecessors, it is now the choice for RAM style in most computers in the United States. Further, though DDR SDRAM has been eclipsed by DDR2 SDRAM, the basic principal underlying both styles stays the same and it appears that DDR SDRAM will remain the blueprint for RAM devices in American computing for years to come.
If you have a newer computer, you are in luck. Your motherboard probably already came equipped with DDR SDRAM in some form or another. If you have an older computer but are interested in the higher performance and increased task execution time that DDR SDRAM can bring you, ask an electronics professional if you are interested in upgrading your computer to DDR SDRAM.
Random Access Memory (RAM) is regulated by the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council, commonly known as JEDEC. JEDEC is a trade association that represents all areas of the electronics industry in the United States. Its 300 members include major players in all aspects of the electronics fields.