Packing over 1,500 pages, Scott Mueller’s Upgrading and Repairing PCs is now my personal paper weight. Foolishly purchased a while back, the book masterfully destroyed my hopes of one day being able to use words like “mainframe” and “gigabyte” in a simple, coherent English sentence.
Luckily, I found 1.29% of the book’s content to be of much use. Buried hopelessly away in its sixth chapter, thedescription Mueller provides regarding memory helped to clear away a long-misguided definition I had of memory’s primary function in a computer.
According to Mueller, memory is…
…the workspace for the processor. It is a temporary storage area where the programs and data being operated on by the processor must reside.
Hmmmmmm. Sounds a lot like an operating room to me.
Mueller uses a fantastic analogy to describe the relationship between memory and hard drives. First, place yourself in an office containing a desk and a file cabinet. The desk represents the computer’s memory, the file cabinet the hard drive, and you…the processor. Each time a program is launched, you retrieve the appropriate file in the cabinet and place it on the desk. As you open more programs and documents, the desk begins to clutter. Thus, the bigger the desk, the easier it is to have multiple files or programs running at the same time. Similarly, getting a bigger file cabinet allows you to store more files into the computer’s hard drive.
This is where I decide to alter the nature of the analogy Mueller uses.
Every time you retrieve a file from the cabinet, you are required to make an exact copy before placing the file on the desk for direct access. If changes are made to any files placed on the desk, you must save these new files to your hard drive before turning off the computer(which erases the memory). Saving the new files is akin to placing them back into the file cabinet and disposing the original in the wastebasket. If you forget to do this and decide to leave the office(turn the computer off), the misinformed night-janitor will come in later and destroy the contents of everything left on the desk. How cruel.
Thus, memory is often described as “volatile storage.” So, if you’ve ever had the traumatizing experience of losing your 15-page paper about the concentration of pyridoxine hyrdochloride in tap water and its affect on adolescent behavior hopelessly shot to oblivion when your laptop’s battery finally went kaput, then you know why.
Luckily, days are changing and many software programs, notably Microsoft Word, includes automatic save features which help to minimize the potential for long nights of misery due to data loss. Isn’t the world awesome?
If you completely disagree with the last question, please leave your emo-like comments below deploring the tragic outlook the world’s people faces. Otherwise, whip out your wallets and enter your credit card information on Amazon and purchase the world’s greatest fire hazard, otherwise known as Upgrading and Repairing PCs!
Urgent update! The 19th(yes, one less than twenty, folks) edition of Scott Mueller’s bible is coming out on December 21st, 2009! Nerdy goodness!