As with anything known to man, computers are not without their quirks. It seems sometimes that computers almost plan to confuse and frustrate users as there are so many things that could be creating the strange behavior we see. Add to that the multiple forms of memory and the behaviors of each which may choose to exhibit rather strange and unwanted behavior at inopportune times, and you have the mixture for a thoroughly confounding 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 further understand why it sometimes acts like it does. These characteristics consist of volatility, mutability, accessibility, and addressability. Throw in capacity and performance, and the mix isn’t that hard to decipher. Armed with this knowledge, we can understand computer memory and assist it in performing better for us.
Some terms we need to understand before we decide that the computer is just acting weird and needs to be replaced follow. Usually, the computer’s tendency to eat our documents and torment us with inoperable operations is only the fault of not understanding the abilities of the types of memories or that there is more than one type even among named memories we know, such as RAM and ROM.
Volatility has two poles-that which is volatile and that which is not volatile. The only difference is in what the memory can do if there is a power interruption to the computer. Non-volatile memory will retain 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 if compared to how we ourselves work. 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 in order not to retain its work. If the power vanishes, so does the volatile memory. It likes a good charge.
Dynamic and static memory forms are usually associated with RAM. Both forms are volatile and require a constant power source, but dynamic memory refreshes periodically. Static memory does not refresh, which makes it a useful, but not as popular an option 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 users want to do with the computer. This type of memory is used for both secondary and primary storage purposes. Among the specific types of mutable storage and memory is ROM.It is the mutable and immutable storage types that are responsible for doing 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 lovingly called RAM. This means that storage can be accessed in any location in about the same amount of time-which looks to us to be instantaneous, but it isn’t really.
Sequential memory is slower and information is gathered and accessed in serial order. Usually, this type may be seen commonly with off line storage.
Addressability comes in three forms: location, file, and content. Location is done by a numerical memory address usually limited to primary storage and accessed internally. File is done by file names with human readability. In other words, the name you gave to a file is how it is addressed. Content addressability concerns 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 as mysterious, it will be easier to understand some of the behaviors related to memory that your computer displays. This should make using your computer a more enjoyable experience.