For those less familiar with the individual hardware components and processes of computers and IT systems, it can be a daunting task to try and decide what is best for your needs. For example, when it comes to how data is handled in terms of storage, synchronization, and use by a Central Processing Unit (CPU), one may ask whether RAM or FIFO is best for a particular need. These two things are sometimes conflated with one another with the fact that they handle batches of data. However, they perform different roles, and one is a type of hardware while another is simply a method of organizing data structures. To help you better understand the differences between RAM and FIFO, we will discuss their individual capabilities and uses in this blog.
RAM, or random-access memory, is a type of computer memory that is a staple of countless systems, allowing for data to be read and changed in any order so that wording data and machine code can be efficiently used. For most direct-access data storage media like hard drives and CDs, the time it takes to read and write data will generally depend on where the data is physically stored on the medium as a result of mechanical limitations. RAM is not faced with this issue, as it can read or write data with sustained speed regardless of physical location.
Most RAM comes in the form of integrated circuit chips with MOS memory cells, and it is volatile in the fact that data is not retained when power is lost. Nevertheless, this is not needed, as RAM simply acts as a short-term space for memory storage for the data that the CPU will need. This means that RAM stores the operating system, application programs, and data that is currently in use so that it can be accessed much faster than if the CPU had to directly communicate with the hard drive.
FIFO, an acronym for “first in, first out,” is used to describe a method for organizing data structure manipulation. With FIFO processes, the oldest or first entry in a queue of data is always the first to be processed, similar to the basic first-come, first-served process that people follow when lining in queues. As such, a FIFO operating system will provide the CPU data in the order in which it is demanded.
With these basic explanations, one can see a clear difference between RAM and FIFO processes. While RAM accesses memory data in any order to prioritize speed, FIFO methods will only process data based on the order it is accessed. Additionally, FIFOs are not used in the same way as RAM hardware, instead being used to offer buffering and flow control between hardware and software. FIFO is also a process that may even be used by RAM hardware like static random-access memory (SRAM), while RAM is an umbrella term for various types of computer hardware that is often essential for basic system functionality.
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