In computing, memory refers to the physical devices used to store programs (sequences of instructions) or data (e.g. program state information) on a temporary or permanent basis for use in a computer or other digital electronic device. The term primary memory is used for the information in physical systems which function at high-speed (i.e. RAM), as a distinction from secondary memory, which are physical devices for program and data storage which are slow to access but offer higher memory capacity. Primary memory stored on secondary memory is called "virtual memory".
The term "storage" is often (but not always) used in separate computers of traditional secondary memory such as tape, magnetic disks and optical discs (CD-ROM and DVD-ROM). The term "memory" is often (but not always) associated with addressable semiconductor memory, i.e. integrated circuits consisting of silicon-based transistors, used for example as primary memory but also other purposes in computers and other digital electronic devices.
There are two main types of semiconductor memory: volatile and non-volatile. Examples of non-volatile memory are flash memory (sometimes used as secondary, sometimes primary computer memory) and ROM/PROM/EPROM/EEPROM memory (used for firmware such as boot programs). Examples of volatile memory are primary memory (typically dynamic RAM, DRAM), and fast CPU cache memory (typically static RAM, SRAM, which is fast but energy-consuming and offer lower memory capacity per area unit than DRAM) .
The semiconductor memory is organized into memory cells or bistable flip-flops, each storing one binary bit (0 or 1). The memory cells are grouped into words of fix word length, for example 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 or 128 bit. Each word can be accessed by a binary address of N bit, making it possible to store 2 raised by N words in the memory. This implies that processor registers normally are not considered as memory, since they only store one word and do not include an addressing mechanism.
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