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Often referred to as main memory, RAM is the acronym forRandom Access Memory.

It is a type of computer memory that can, as its name implies, be accessed randomly. That is, any byte of memory can be accessed without touching the preceding bytes. RAM is the "working memory" storage area within the computer. All data on the computer is stored on the hard drive, but in order for the CPU to work with the data during normal operations, the data the computer uses and works with is read into the working memory, which is the RAM chips. DRAM is the primary technology used on EDGE memory modules and will therefore be the primary focus of this guide. DRAM- Dynamic Random Access Memory DRAM stands for dynamic random access memory, a type of memory used in most personal computers. Dynamic Random Access Memory must have an electric current to maintain electrical state (refresh).


FPM DRAM - Fast Page Mode DRAM FPM DRAM is only slightly faster than regular DRAM. This used to be the main type of memory used in PCs but was eventually replaced by EDO RAM, due to its slow speed. FPM DRAM, is now considered to be obsolete. It was mainly used in the older 386 and 486 computers. It is not suitable for memory buses over 66 MHz. EDO DRAM - Extended Data Out DRAM EDO DRAM provided a better performance increase over FPM DRAM. EDO RAM cannot operate on a bus speed faster than 66MHz. SDRAM - Synchronous DRAM Short for Synchronous DRAM, a type of DRAM that can run at much higher clock speeds than conventional memory. SDRAM actually synchronizes itself with the CPUs bus. NOTE: When looking at SDRAM The number following "PC" indicates the speed of the systems frontside bus. (example: The PC100 SDRAM is designed for systems equipped with a 100 MHz frontside bus.) RDRAM - Rambus DRAM Short for Rambus DRAM , a type of memory (DRAM) developed by Rambus, Inc. Whereas the fastest current memory technologies used by PCs (SDRAM) can deliver data at a maximum speed of about 100 MHz, RDRAM transfers data at up to 800 MHz. DDR SDRAM - Double Data Rate Short for Double Data Rate-Synchronous DRAM, a type of SDRAM that supports data transfers on both edges of each clock cycle (the rising and falling edges), effectively doubling the memory chips data throughput. DDRSDRAM also consumes less power, which makes it well-suited to notebook computers.

NOTE: When looking at DDR memory, the number following "PC" indicates the modules total bandwidth. (example:PC3200 DDR memoryis designed for systems equipped with a 400MHz frontside bus. The number 3200 refers to the modules bandwidth; the quantity of data that it transfers in one second, of 1.6 GB per second.


DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 SDRAM is the next step up from DDR SDRAM. DDR2 SDRAM offers new features and functions that enable higher clock and data rate operations. DDR2 transfers 64 bits of data twice every clock cycle. DDR2 SDRAM memory is not compatible with current DDR SDRAM memory slots. SIMM Acronym for single in-line memory module, a small circuit board that can hold a group of memory chips. A SIMM has a 32-bit path to the memory chips. Typically, SIMMs hold up to eight (on Macintoshes) or nine (on PCs) RAM chips. On PCs, the ninth chip is often used for parity error checking. Unlike memory chips, SIMMs are measured in bytes rather than bits. SIMMs are easier to install than individual memory chips. SIMMs come in 30-pin and 72pin varieties. DIMM Short for dual in-line memory module, a small circuit board that holds memory chips. A DIMM has a 64-bit path to the memory chips. Because the Pentium processor requires a 64-bit path to memory you can install memory one DIMM at a time. DIMMs come as 168-pin (SDRAM DIMM) or 184-pin (DDR DIMM) that is used to provide DDR SDRAMmemory for many desktop computers. DDR DIMM will not fit into a standard SDRAM DIMM slot. RIMM The memory module used with RDRAM chips. It is similar to a DIMM package but uses different pin settings. Rambus trademarked the term RIMM as an entire word. It is the term used for a module using Rambus technology. It is sometimes incorrectly used as an acronym for Rambus Inline Memory Module. RIMMs have 184 pins. Rambus memory modules will only fit motherboards and systems especially designed for RIMMs, despite having the same number of pins as DDR DIMMs. CAS - column address strobe Abbreviated as CAS, a signal, or strobe, sent by the processor to a DRAM circuit to activate a column address. DRAM stores data in a series of rows and columns, similar in theory to a spreadsheet, and each cell where a data bit is stored exists in both a row and a column. A processor uses CAS and RAS (row address strobe) signals to retrieve data from DRAM. When data is needed, the processor activates the RAS line to specify the row where the

data is needed, and then activates the CAS line to specify the column. Combined, the two signals locate the data stored in DRAM. When seen in memory information, you will usually spot the reference "CAS2" or "CAS3". The number following CAS (2 or 3) represents the number of clock cycles before a DRAM column can be accessed. CAS2 or CAS3 are also referred to as CL2 or CL3 and referenced as the SPD setting. Refresh To recharge a device with power or information. For example, dynamic RAM needs to be refreshed thousands of times per second or it will lose the data stored in it. Bank (n.) The area of a motherboard that contains slots for memory modules. Memory banks are typically double sided (allowing for single- or double-sided memory modules), and the banks in the slots are numbered. Memory banks are organized into units representing the minimum number of memory chips that must work in tandem. ECC memory Short for Error-Correcting Code memory, a type of memory that includes special circuitry for testing the accuracy of data as it passes in and out of memory. Access time DRAM (dynamic random access memory) chips for personal computers have access times of 50 to 150 nanoseconds (billionths of a second). Static RAM (SRAM) has access times as low as 10 nanoseconds. Ideally, the access time of memory should be fast enough to keep up with the CPU. If not, the CPU will waste a certain number of clock cycles, which makes it slower. Main memory Refers to physical memory that is internal to the computer. The word main is used to distinguish it from external mass storage devices such as disk drives. Another term for main memory is RAM. Registered memory A memory module that contains registers that hold the data for one clock cycle before it is moved on to the motherboard. This process increases the reliability of high-speed data access. Registered memory modules are typically used only in servers and other mission-critical systems where it is extremely important that the data is properly handled. Buffered memory Buffered memory contains a buffer to assist the chipset deal with the large electrical load required when the system has a lot of memory. Much like registered modules, buffered modules are typically used in servers and other

mission-critical systems where it is extremely important that the data is properly handled. Unbuffered memory Unbuffered memory deals directly with the chipset controller with nothing in between as they communicate. Parity Parity memory modules have an extra chip that will detect if data was correctly read or written by the memory module. Unlike ECC, parity will not correct the error. The rest of this guide will take a closer look at module components of computer memorysuch as the PCB, the actual DRAM that is used on the module and the different DRAM packaging. We will also determine how to tell the size of a module by knowing DRAM sizes by density and part number. PCB (PRINTED CIRCUIT BOARD) The green board on which all the memory chips sit consists of several layers. Each layer contains traces and circuitry, which facilitate the movement of data. In general, higher quality memory modules use PCBs with more layers. The more layers a PCB has, the more space there is between traces. The more space there is between traces, the lesser the chance of noise interference. This makes the module much more reliable. DRAM (DYNAMIC RANDOM ACCESS MEMORY) DRAM is the most common form of RAM. Its called "dynamic" RAM because it can only hold data for a short period of time and must be refreshed periodically. Most memory chips have black or chrome coating, or packaging, to protect their circuitry. The following section titled "Chip Packaging" shows pictures of chips housed in different types of chip packages. CONTACT FINGERS The contact fingers, sometimes referred to as "connectors" or "leads," plug into the memory socket on the system board enabling information to travel from the system board to the memory module and back. On some memory modules, these leads are plated with tin; on others, the leads are made of gold. INTERNAL TRACE LAYER PCBs contain metal traces that are etched in the board. Traces are like roads the data travels on. The width and curvature of these traces, as well as the distance between them, affect both the speed and the reliability of the overall module. Experienced designers arrange, or "lay out", the traces to maximize speed and reliability and minimize interference. CHIP PACKAGING The term "chip packaging" refers to the material coating around the actual silicon. Today, the most common packaging is called TSOP (Thin Small

Outline Package). Some earlier chip designs used DIP (Dual Inline Package) packaging and SOJ (Small Outline J-lead). Newer chips, such as RDRAM, use CSP (Chip Scale Package), which is also known as BGA or Ball Grid Array. Take a look at the different chip packages below, so you can see how they differ. TSOP (THIN SMALL OUTLINE PACKAGE) TSOP packaging, another surface-mount design, got its name because the package was much thinner than the SOJ design. TSOPs were first used to make thin credit card modules for notebook computers.

DIP (DUAL IN-LINE PACKAGE) When it was common for memory to be installed directly on the computers system board, the DIP-style DRAM package was extremely popular. DIPs are through-hole components, which means they install in holes extending into the surface of the PCB. They can be soldered in place or installed in sockets.

SOJ (SMALL OUTLINE J-LEAD) SOJ packages got their name because the pins coming out of the chip are shaped like the letter "J". SOJs are surface-mount components - that is, they mount directly onto the surface of the PCB.

CSP or BGA (CHIP SCALE PACKAGE or Ball Grid Array ) Unlike DIP, SOJ, and TSOP packaging, CSP packaging doesn't use pins to connect the chip to the board. Instead, electrical connections to the board are through a BGA (Ball Grid Array) on the underside of the package. RDRAM (Rambus DRAM) chips and all DDR2 chips utilize this type of packaging.

MAKING THE CHIP Memory starts out as common beach sand. Sand contains silicon, which is the primary component in the manufacture of semiconductors, or "chips." Silicon is extracted from sand, melted, pulled, cut, ground, and polished into silicon wafers. During the chip-making process, intricate circuit patterns are imprinted on the chips through a variety of techniques. Once this is complete, the chips are tested and die-cut. The good chips are separated out and proceed through a stage called "bonding": this process establishes connections between the chip and the gold or tin leads, or pins. Once the chips are bonded, they're packaged in hermetically sealed plastic or ceramic casings. After inspection, they're ready for sale. MAKING THE MEMORY MODULE There are three major components that make up a memory module: the memory chips, PCB, and other "on-board" elements such as resistors and capacitors. The basic process of PCB manufacture is very similar to that of the memory chips. Masking, layering, and etching techniques create copper traces on the surface of the board. After the PCB is produced, the module is ready for assembly. Automated systems perform surface-mount and throughhole assembly of the components onto the PCB. The attachment is made with solder paste, which is then heated and cooled to form a permanent bond. Modules that pass inspection are packaged and shipped for installation into a computer. CALCULATING THE CAPACITY OF A MODULE Memory holds the information that the CPU needs to process. The capacity of memory chips and modules are described in megabits (millions of bits) and megabytes(millions of bytes). When trying to figure out how much memory you have on a module, there are two important things to remember: A module consists of a group of chips. If you add together the capacities of all the chips on the module, you get the total capacity of the module. Exceptions to this rule are: If some of the capacity is being used for another function, such as error checking.

If some of the capacity is not being used, for example some chips may have extra rows to be used as back-ups. (This isn't common.) While chip capacity is usually expressed in megabits, module capacity is expressed inmegabytes. This can get confusing, especially since many people unknowingly use the word "bit" when they mean "byte" and vice versa. To help make it clear, we'll adopt the following standards in this guide: When we talk about the amount of memory on a module, we'll use the term "module capacity"; when we are referring to chips, we'll use the term "chip density". Module capacity will be measured in megabytes (MB) with both

letters capital, and chip density will be measured in megabits (Mbit), and we'll spell out the word "bit" in small letters. CHIP DENSITY Each memory chip is a matrix of tiny cells. Each cell holds one bit of information. Memory chips are often described by how much information they can hold. We call this chip density. You may have encountered examples of chip densities, such as "64Mbit SDRAM" or "8M by 8" (8Mx8). A 64Mbit chip has 64 million cells and is capable of holding 64 million bits of data. The expression "8M by 8" describes one kind of 64Mbit chip in more detail. In the memory industry, DRAM chip densities are often described by their cell organization. The first number in the expression indicates the depth of the chip (in locations) and the second number indicates the width of the chip (in bits). If you multiply the depth by the width, you get the density of the chip. Here are some examples MODULE CAPACITY Its easy to calculate the capacity of a memory module if you know the capacities of the chips on it. If there are eight 64Mbit chips, its a 512Mbit module. However, because the capacity of a module is described in megabytes, not megabits, you have to convert bits to bytes. To do this, divide the number of bits by 8 (because there are 8bits in 1byte). In the case of the 512Mbit module: 512Mbits divided by 8bits = 64MB. You can also calculate the module size by multiplying the MB density of the dram x the number of dram on the module. A 64Mbit chip is 8MB is total size (64Mbits divided by 8bits = 8MB. If there are 8 chips on the module than the total module size is 64MB (8MB x 8 chips).

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