|Noun||1.||random-access memory - the most common computer memory which can be used by programs to perform necessary tasks while the computer is on; an integrated circuit memory chip allows information to be stored or accessed in any order and all storage locations are equally accessible|
|(storage)||random-access memory - (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 circuits, 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.