Internal Storage Options
Internal Storage Options in a Computer include both primary and secondary storage. Primary storage refers to memory. These elements inside a computer store data as the CPU operates on that data. Secondary storage refers to long term storage, hard drives and solid state drives. These elements inside a computer store data for the long term, for example documents people use or save for future reference.
Over time computers used different forms of primary internal storage. Modern computers use Magnetic Core (not in common use, but computers use it,) Bubble Memory (fell out of use when hard drives dropped in price,) and Semiconductor Storage (including microprocessors, the most common modern internal primary storage.)
Computers once used Magnetic Core Storage, but it's no longer popular except in some legacy systems. However, Magnetic Core memory storage concepts apply to modern microchip storage. Computers store data in a binary format, 0's and 1's. For Magnetic Core Storage, small rings hung on wires take on a 0 or 1 state when the computer sends a charge through the wire, changing their magnetic state to either one direction or the other. This is non volatile storage, meaning even when it loses power it retains its magnetic state and thus the stored data.
Bubble Memory is a thin semiconductor crystal, with molecules that take the place of the magnetic material in the Magnetic Core Storage. These molecules take on one polarity or the other thanks to a current passed through a control circuit on the crystal. Bubble Memory, like magnetic core storage, retains data even when the current no longer flows. But unlike Magnetic Core Storage, which loses data each time the computer reads it, bubble memory retains the data (magnetic state) after a read. The downfall of Bubble Memory was its comparatively slow speed compared to semiconductor or even hard drive storage, and its high cost compared to hard drive storage.
Modern computers use Semiconductor Storage, with more and more fit into tinier and tinier microchips. Each silicon microchip consists of hundreds of thousands or even millions of electronic circuits. Current flows through these circuits, which gives them an “on” or 1 state, compared to the “off” or 0 state when current doesn't flow. Today's microchips are incredibly fast, reliable, and they consume little power. They are cheaper than any type of memory that came before them. The one disadvantage is that they are volatile, meaning they lose their state and thus data when power stops flowing.
Primary internal storage options include RAM (Random Access Memory,) the memory found in modern computers. When a computer has 2 Gigabytes of memory, it has 2 Gigabytes of RAM, and the CPU accesses this memory randomly, pulling the necessary data through use of memory addresses, much like finding a house using its address. Computers also contain ROM (Read Only Memory,) another type of random access memory that is more permanent – either the computer cannot write new data to it, or the computer writes data to it only occasionally, such as when someone upgrades their BIOS.
Common secondary internal storage includes internal hard drives, and internal CD or DVD drives. People use these to store data semi-permanently, mistaking it for permanent storage. But hard drives fail, as do CDs and DVDs, meaning people should backup data stored to this media.
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