CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Don't forget to add more memory

by Cathi Schuler

Computer memory and money have a lot in common. Just when you think you've scraped up enough to get by, unforeseen circumstances and new needs place additional demands on your precious resources. No matter how well you may have planned your PC purchase or upgrade, is seems you never have enough memory.

In fact, this is not due to poor planning on your part, but rather to marketing trends and growth in an industry that is in a constant state of change and evolution. Everyday, software products are being introduced that offer new automated features, graphics, sound and video, that make the computing process multi-dimensional, dynamic and exciting...but at a cost: lots and lots of memory.

Memory, or RAM, is your active, electronic working space where all computing takes place. On the other hand, programs and data are stored on your hard disk which is a passive magnetic storage medium. Like your hard disk capacity, memory comes in finite sizes of much smaller increments than hard disk sizes.

The difference between the hard disk and RAM can be likened to a closet full of tools and a workbench. All your tools are stored neatly in a large closet (hard disk). When it's time to use a certain tool, you don't stand in the closet and hammer away, but rather you take your gadget out of the closet and place it on your workbench (RAM). When the task is complete, the tools are returned to the closet for storage. If you take too many big or fancy tools out of the closet at the same time, they'll fall off the workbench (out of memory). If all the tools are truly needed at once, you'll need to build a bigger workbench (add more memory).

Most personal-computer systems sold today don't have enough memory when sold to the consumer. Because memory is a very expensive component of the PC system, manufacturers are keeping the amount of memory in new systems at a minimum in order to stay competitive in their pricing. Dataquest, a San Jose market-research firm, found that computer makers are shipping most systems with just enough memory needed for the very basics, usually 8MB. Additionally, Dataquest reported the average business computer has grown from 4MB memory in 1993 to 16MB in 1995. It is forecasted that memory requirements for business computers in 1997 will be 24 MB.

Adding more memory to your system usually involves adding SIMMS (Single Inline Memory Modules) to the system motherboard. SIMMs are small circuit boards that contain memory chips. They come in various capacities and plug into available slots on the system board. In order to add more memory, you need to be sure you have an open slot available. Some systems come from the factory with all available SIMM slots filled, forcing you to discard the memory you currently have in order to make room for more.

For example, you may only have two slots on your mother board which currently contain two 4MB SIMMs, equaling 8MB of memory. To upgrade to 16MB, you'd have to toss out your existing memory in order to accommodate two 8MB SIMMs. Keep this in mind if you are purchasing a new system. Make sure the memory is configured so that you can add additional RAM to your system without having to discard perfectly good, existing memory chips.

In addition to SIMM capacity, speed and parity are other considerations when upgrading or adding more RAM to your system. Memory speed determines how fast the co-processor can request information from a memory chip.

This speed typically ranges from 50 to 80 nanoseconds. A parity bit is often added to SIMMs as a protection against memory errors. It is increasingly common, however, for manufacturers to build SIMMs without the parity bit in an attempt to cut costs.

Whether you are buying a new PC or upgrading your existing system, buy as much memory as you can afford and always try to purchase more memory than your system requirements for your existing software applications. It will be a good investment that will pay dividends in your computing future.

Feedback? E-Mail cschuler@ceeprompt.com

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