Does the computer memory have a physical mass?

Data storage

A data memory is used to store data or information. Data carriers serve as data storage. The term storage medium is also used as a synonym for a specific data carrier. Data storage is about writing or saving data of any kind on a data carrier and reading it again from there.

Storage or data storage can mean many things. Data storage media can be data carriers or storage media that can be written to or read using electronic devices. Data storage media can also be electronic components that store data within circuits. Data memories can be installed permanently or interchangeably in electronic devices.

External data storage is considered hardware threatened with extinction. For example DVD or Blu-ray drives. Drives for reading storage media are now typically connected externally via USB.

Types of data storage

Comparison: data storage

Data storagecapacityTransfer rate
diskette1.4 Mbytes-
ZIP drive120 Mbytes-
CD-R700 Mbytesapprox. 4 Mbytes / s
DVD-R4.4 GBapprox. 18 MB / s
BD-RE22.6 GB9 to 34 MB / s
UHD-BD100 GB9 to 34 MB / s
USB stick (USB 2.0)up to 512 GB5 to 34 Mbytes / s
External USB 2.0 hard drive (2.5 ")up to 2 Tbytesapprox. 34 MB / s
Internal SATA hard drive (3.5 ")up to 8 TBmax. 600 MB / s

This is what the perfect data storage should look like

  • low energy consumption
  • low manufacturing costs
  • high performance
  • high storage density
  • almost unlimited erase and write cycles
  • low switching voltage

Future developments

A new type of storage facility is presented every few years. However, there is a considerable time gap between the presentation of a prototype and market-ready products. Many storage technologies are also rarely used. Some only have a niche existence. As long as it is economically justifiable, the existing basic technology will be used and further developed for as long as possible.
Future storage technologies will be molecular storage and bio-storage, as well as being subject to influences from nanotechnology. However, it will always have to be an electronic memory.

A whole range of physical effects are available for new storage methods:

  • optically
  • electric
  • magnetic
  • thermo-magnetic
  • thermo-mechanical
  • chemically
  • biological

Storage architecture

An optimal data storage medium would consist of a data carrier that can permanently hold large amounts of data and at the same time is very fast. Unfortunately, one of the requirements can never be met in combination with the other. Either the memory is too small, too slow or loses its memory content when the power supply is switched off. For this reason, most computers are based on at least a two-tier storage architecture that distinguishes between primary storage and secondary storage.

  • Primary storage
    • Buffer memory (cache in the processor)
    • Random Access Memory (RAM)
  • Secondary storage
    • Read-only memory
    • Mass storage
    • Removable storage

NVM - non-volatile memory

A data memory that consists of both non-volatile AND fast memory chips is the dream of every memory developer. The so-called non-volatile memory (NVM) combines these properties, which has considerable effects on the PC architecture. This semiconductor memory would make almost all other types of data storage redundant. The tedious booting process would also be eliminated, as would the cumbersome handling of different external storage media. This requires non-volatile memory with high capacity, low power consumption and fast access times. However, such a semiconductor memory is still a long way off.

Other related topics:

Everything you need to know about computer technology.

Computer technology primer

The computer technology primer is a book about the basics of computer technology, processor technology, semiconductor memory, interfaces, data storage devices, drives and important hardware components.

I want that!

Everything you need to know about computer technology.

Computer technology primer

The computer technology primer is a book about the basics of computer technology, processor technology, semiconductor memory, interfaces, data storage devices, drives and important hardware components.

I want that!