Why RAM May Become the Most Important Thing in Your Computer
Computer RAM has always been among the most vital parts of the computer, but it seems that the technology that was made for a very specific purpose is far more versatile than the original creators could have possibility imagined. In fact, there's a good chance that a number of other computer processes currently being handled other parts will be replaced in the future with various forms of RAM.
The purpose of RAM (Random Access Memory) is to be an easily accessed place where data that is needed at the moment can be accessed quickly. Reading and writing off of a hard drive takes time, and slows a computer down. Rather than constantly have the computer search out data on the hard drive, it instead puts the programs and data that you are currently using in the RAM, which is designed to respond quickly to data calls and provide it to the user in a reasonable time. The RAM clock speed indicates how quickly a computer's RAM can work, with the higher number being better.
One of the ways that RAM is being used to replace other pieces of a computer is through the solid-state drive (SSD). These particular drives can be made of a number of different components, but RAM is usually a good option because of its speed and power. The SSD, unlike a standard hard drive, has no moving parts, so it can access data more quickly and generate less heat in the process.
The problem with solid-state drives, at least when it came to their initial creation, is that making something that is meant to store data out of RAM is counter-intuitive. RAM is designed to only maintain data so long as it has power going to it, at which point all of the data goes away. However, a drive that loses all of its data should one turn off their computer is not particularly useful at all. For a while, and even to some extent today, RAM-based drives had to have secondary power sources in order protect data in case of power loss. Fortunately, there is a better option now.
Non-volatile RAM is a type of memory that was designed to not lose data when it no longer had power going to it. The most common form of NVRAM is actually flash memory.
Flash drives are becoming more and more popular for a very good reason: they continue to get physically smaller while holding more data that can be easily carried in a pocket. In some cases, whole operating systems can be stored on one and used on any device with a USB drive. As NVRAM technology continues to improve, solid-state drives of significant size can be made from it.
The problem is that NVRAM right now has to write data in larger blocks and, more importantly, it has a fairly limited longevity. Flash drives usually only last about 100,000 read/write cycles before they start to wear out and data loss begins happening. There is a new possibility as well, though.
Magnetic RAM uses electron spin to store memory rather than trying to write the data on a physical location. By adjusting the direction of spin of electrons, the computer can read it as either a 1 for one way, or a 0 for the other. This technology is looking to combine the best in terms of speed and density, and will have hundreds of applications. Its resistance to extreme temperatures and high radiation give it dozens of military and space exploration uses alone. It can replace both the RAM and hard drive of a computer, which would then turn on instantly. Its lower power consumption would be great for mobile devices to extend battery life while speeding up the item itself. The possibilities are endless.
Advancements in RAM are absolutely a significant part of the future of computers. As we learn to make things better and cheaper, we will continue to see them enter the market and change the way we process data.