Survey of Design and Media Art
Instructor: Lindsay Grace

Computer Hardware Terms

Memory and Storage

RAM (Random Access Memory): This is the memory your computer uses to run software. RAM is usually described as memory, when hard drives, disks, etc, are described as storage. RAM is emptied out every time your computers are turned off.

Gigabyte, Megabyte, Kilobyte, Byte, and Bit: These are the terms that describe how much storage a piece of hardware can hold. A bit is the smallest unit. There are 8 bits to a byte. One byte can hold on letter.

Drive: Any of the storage devices allowing data to be read or written to them. Examples include CD-Rom drive, Floppy Diskette drive, and hard drive.

Disk Drive, Floppy Drive, Floppy Disk: Any of the disk drives that uses a magnetic to write and read data. The standard disk drive size is 3.5”, but old computers used disks 5 ¼” and larger. The term floppy used to describe the disk’s soft plastic, but recent 3.5” inch disk are stiff. For a PC, 1.44 meg is the maximum amount of data you can put on a floppy.

Hard Drive: The main storage component on a computer. An average hard drive has at least 40 gigabytes of storage.

CD-Rom: A compact disc drive that allows a user to read from the CD, but not write to the CD. In a way, the average CD-player is a CD-ROM. ROM stand for “read only memory.”

CD Burner or Read / Write Drive: A compact disc (CD) drive that can create new compact discs. Some CD burners are write once, meaning they can only write to a CD one time per CD. Others are “rewrittable,” meaning you can re-writ on the same CD. The average CD can hold 700 “meg” of data, or about 80 minutes worth of music.

DVD: A high-density compact disc. A DVD can hold 133 minutes of high quality video and audio. DVD initially meant “Digital Video Disc,“ but now also means “Digital Versatile Disc” to include uses on computers. When using a high quality DVD “burner” you can store up to 4.7 gigs of data on a single DVD.

DVD Drive, DVD Burner: A DVD drive is a storage device that can read or write to a DVD.

Flash Memory: Any of a variety of read-only and read/write storage devices that uses a computer chip to store data instead of a disk. Flash memory retains its data when the computer is turned off, unlike RAM. Flash memory is popular for use with digital cameras and handheld computers. It is small fast storage, with storage ranges from 1mb to more than 500mb.