As with everything known to man, computers are not without peculiarities. Sometimes it seems that computers almost plan to confuse and frustrate users, as there are many things that could be creating the strange behavior that we see. Add to that the multiple forms of memory and behaviors of each that you can choose to exhibit rather strange and unwanted behavior at inopportune times, and you have the mix for a completely confusing experience.
However, there is no need to panic. Computer memory has a class of characteristics that are unique to it and that can help us better understand why it sometimes acts the way it does. These characteristics consist of volatility, mutability, accessibility, and addressability. Add capacity and performance, and the combination isn’t that hard to figure out. Armed with this knowledge, we can understand computer memory and help it work better for us.
Here are some terms to understand before deciding that the computer is acting strange and needs to be replaced. Usually the computer’s tendency to eat up our documents and torment us with inoperable operations is just the fault of not understanding the capabilities of memory types or that there is more than one type even among the named memories that we know of, such as RAM and ROM.
Volatility has two poles: that which is volatile and that which is not volatile. The only difference is what the memory can do if there is a power interruption to the computer. Non-volatile memory will preserve our work even without electricity. This type of memory strives to make us happy by saving our work and favorite computer programs for later use.
Volatile memory would be called temperamental when compared to how we work ourselves. Another way of looking at this type of memory is to think of it as the emotions of the computer. Just as we are fickle in our emotions, so are computers. This type of memory must have a constant power source so as not to retain its work. If power fades, so does volatile memory. He likes a good load.
The forms of dynamic and static memory are often associated with RAM. Both forms are volatile and require a constant power source, but dynamic memory is periodically updated. Static memory is not updated, which makes it a useful option, but not as popular as dynamic memory.
Mutability is the ability of computer memory to read and write storage and comes in the form of immutable and mutable memory types. Mutable storage can be overwritten more than once and is necessary for a computer to be useful for many of the tasks that users want to do with the computer. This type of memory is used for primary and secondary storage purposes. Among the specific types of storage and mutable memory is the ROM, which are the mutable and immutable types of storage that are responsible for performing operations such as writing CDs, DVDs and other similar functions.
Accessibility is found in both random access forms and sequential forms. Random access is probably the best known and is affectionately called RAM. This means that storage can be accessed at any location in roughly the same amount of time, which seems instantaneous to us, but in reality it is not.
Sequential memory is slower and information is collected and accessed in serial order. Usually this type can be seen commonly with offline storage.
Addressability comes in three forms: location, file, and content. The location is done using a numeric memory address that is generally limited to primary storage and is accessed internally. Archiving is done using human readable file names. In other words, the name you gave a file is how it is treated. Content addressability refers to itself with a selected hash value, a short identifier with a number that points to the memory address for the information.
Now that the terms are not so mysterious, it will be easier to understand some of the memory-related behaviors that your computer displays. This should make using your computer a more pleasant experience.