RDRAM (Rambus Direct Random Access Memory) is a type of DRAM that was designed by Rambus Corporation. However, it is not simply a brand name of DRAM, as it possesses different qualities from other types of DRAM, like SDRAM, for example. Any developer of this kind of RAM has to pay Rambus Corporation royalties for using their formatting. RDRAM began being placed in computer motherboards in 1999, and has remained a viable memory option since then, without undergoing the drastic changes of some other RAM formats, like DDR RAM. RDRAM has fallen out of popular usage, and very few motherboards are made that still support it.
In order to understand what RDRAM is, it’s important to understand DRAM, the foundation it was built upon. It is called dynamic because it has to be refreshed to avoid losing memory, unlike static RAM (SRAM). The main benefits of DRAM are that it can hold the most amount of memory possible and it is relatively inexpensive, which make it ideal for personal computers. DRAM technology has been around for decades, although it is constantly being improved through research and manufacturing. New types of DRAM, like RDRAM or SDRAM, are consistently in development, with a new form coming out every three or four years since the mid-90′s.
RDRAM saw its first mainstream usage in video game systems like the Nintendo 64 and the Playstation 2. In these consoles, RDRAM’s advantages made it the preferable format for memory. Specifically, RDRAM was able to carry a relatively large amount of memory when compared to the simplicity of its design. Because of the streamlined method in which video game systems are produced, RDRAM became a cheaper alternative than the more popular memory card formats for PC’s at the time. At the time, RDRAM was being considered by many developers of different computers for major production as well.
However, RDRAM became much less popular in the early 2000′s, as developments to SDRAM helped it become a more effective type of memory, namely the DDR developments that have continued into today. Even the Rambus Corporation has moved beyond RDRAM. It has already developed different kinds of memory that exceed RDRAM’s performance limitations in nearly every way. RDRAM never gained a significant share of the memory market; even between 1999 and 2002, it was never supported by more than 5% of motherboards produced for PC’s. By the time it was beginning to grow in popularity, it was outshined by the advent of DDR technology.
One of the biggest disadvantages that any new kind of RAM technology has is that it different kinds of RAM are not interchangeable with different memory cards. This means that a new kind of RAM has to have significant advantages in a few areas in order to justify the expense of having new motherboards produced specifically for it. Even if a type of memory is better than the current standards in some way, not many developers are going to take the risk of building new computers around that technology, and risk it becoming outdated quickly or not capturing the interest of consumers.
As much as RDRAM has fallen out of production, there are still computers that use it. For those people, it is still possible to buy memory card upgrades that will improve performance fairly well. RDRAM memory cards are sold holding up to 2 gigabytes of memory. They won’t be up to DDR2 or DDR3 speed standards, but for people using old computers that are still only compatible with that type of RAM, a memory card can help it run current technology. However, RDRAM cards will be hard to find in stores, so the only place to find them might be online.