What is RAM ?

This series of articles aim at helping the non technical people make sense of the commonly used Technical terms.
Antie is a character with no technical knowledge , who will be exploring the technical world.
Tiny is the techie who antie turns to for all the technical help.

Antie:  Hi tiny, was wondering about buying a laptop
Tiny: Cool Antie, which one?
Antie: I don't know, yesterday I went to the showroom and my head started spining.
Tiny: (laughing)  Well Antie, I understand there are just so many options.
Antie:  No Tiny its not the options in laptops, its the different technical terms that were using. I just could not make head and tail of it.
Tiny: Oh, let see then. Tell me one by one and I will tell you what they mean.
Antie:(smiling). ok Lets start with some thing called as  RAM. Every one kept asking how much RAM are you looking for? I would have rammed them on their heads if they had asked once more.
Tiny:(laughing) Lucky guys they got spared. Well let me explain to you what RAM is all about and why is it important to look at RAM when buying a laptop or a desktop.
In your office you have so many files, each file having different data in it.
 Where do you keep all the files?
Anite: I have a shelf to store all files, where I arrange them.
Tiny: At any given time you would only work with one or two files isn't it?
Antie: Yes.
Tiny: Where do you keep those files ?
Antie: On my desk. I pick which ever file I want from the shelf and keep them on the desk while  I work.
Tiny: Yes, obviously because you don't want to keep moving from the shelf to your table to look at the files. Now suppose that you need 10 files at the same time for your work. But your table can hold only 5 at time. Then what would you do ?
Antie: Hmmm that is problem I do face at times. Then I just work with the 5 on my table and keep shifting the files i finish work with back to the shelf and get the new ones on the table.
Tiny: A bigger table would obviously make life a lot easier for you won't it.
Anite: Yes if I could afford one, now how is any of this related to RAM?
Tiny:That is what I am coming to.  The shelf where you keep all the files is similar to the memory in your laptop where all the data gets stored. The data lies in that memory when not being used just as your files that lie in the shelf when not used. This memory is called as the secondary memory in computer terms.
But when you need some data out of this memory, the data is moved into a temporary storage where you can work on the data, just like you move the file on to your table. This temporary storage where data is moved to while working on it is termed as the RAM. Which stands for Random access memory.  As you said if you had a bigger table you could have kept more files on the table and saved the time that you spend moving from shelf to the table, same way the bigger the RAM in your laptop more the data that can be stored in it while working. If the RAM becomes small the system has to repeatedly keep swapping the data from the secondary memory to the RAM just as you swap files from the desk to shelf.
Antie: Oh, Ok now that explains some things all right. But what is it that they use to measure the size of this RAM. I have seen some thing like RAM of 2GB,1GB etc. What does that mean?
Tiny: That is the unit that is used to measure the data in any computer. For eg: we use grams,pounds to measure weights or Meter,Centimeter to measure distance. Similarly a unit called bytes is used to measure the data in the computer. 1GB is 1 Giga byte that is 10 to the power of 6 bytes. The bigger this number the more the storage capacity of the RAM. Say your table is 1 square meter, and you buy a new table of 4square meter obviously you can keep more files on the new table. Similarly the higher the bytes, more the storage capacity of the RAM but also higher will the cost of your computer.
Antie: Ah, now I get it. That does make things a lot clearer. Though there are a lot more terms that they kept throwing at me. This is enough for today. I will come back again tomorrow.
Tiny: Any time Antie, would be glad to tell you about it, as long as you keep giving me your home made chocolates.
Antie:(Giving Tiny a box). Here they are special strawberry filled chocolates. Try them out.
Walking  away.

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