Random access memory
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Random access memory or RAM is a type of computer storage whose contents can be accessed in any order. This is in contrast to sequential memory devices such as magnetic tapes, discs and drums, in which the mechanical movement of the storage medium forces the computer to access data in a fixed order. It is usually implied that RAM can be both written to and read from, in contrast to read-only memory or ROM.
Computers use RAM to hold the program code and data during execution. In the first electronic computers, RAM was built from vacuum tubes, and later magnetic cores. The term “core” is still used by some programmers to describe the RAM at the heart of a computer.
Throughout the history of computing, a variety of technologies have been used for RAM, and usually more than one in the same computer, with high-memories constructed out of the same technology as the logic, and slower, cheaper technologies used for bulk storage.
Some early computers used mercury delay lines, in which a series of acoustic pulses were sent along a tube filled with mercury. When the pulse reached the end of the tube, the circuitry detected whether the pulse represented a binary 1 or 0 and caused the oscillator at the beginning of the line to repeat the pulse. Other early computers stored RAM on high-speed “magnetic drums”.