<storage> (RAM) (Previously "direct-access memory").
A data storage device for which the order of access to different locations does not affect the speed of access.
This is in contrast to, say, a magnetic disk
, magnetic tape
or a mercury delay line
where it is very much quicker to access data sequentially because accessing a non-sequential location requires physical movement of the storage medium rather than just electronic switching.
The most common form of RAM in use today is built from semiconductor integrated circuit
s, which can be either static (SRAM
) or dynamic (DRAM
In the 1970s magnetic core
memory was used.
RAM is still referred to as core by some old-timers.
The term "RAM" has gained the additional meaning of read-write.
Most kinds of semiconductor read-only memory
(ROM) are actually "random access" in the above sense but are never referred to as RAM.
Furthermore, memory referred to as RAM can usually be read and written equally quickly (approximately), in contrast to the various kinds of programmable read-only memory
Finally, RAM is usually volatile though non-volatile random-access memory is also used.
Interestingly, some DRAM
devices are not truly random access because various kinds of "page mode
" or "column mode" mean that sequential access is faster than random access.