Who Invented RAM?
The Early Years
In the 1940s, computers only existed in government buildings and were typically the size of a family car and stored a minuscule amount of data by modern standards. Magnetic-core memory, as it was called then, used an array of magnetic rings to store data in simple binary 1s and 0s.
Inventor of the Prototype RAM
In answer to the question of who invented RAM, that accolade would go to Robert Dennard, an American electrical engineer from Terrell, Texas. Still, in its basic form and roughly the size of an A4 hardback textbook, it was Mr. Dennard’s prototype that started it all off.
Over the next 20 years, the hardware evolved to a point that led to the eventual filing for a patent for the RAM chip, in 1968, by digital pioneer Jay Wright Forrester, working with Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on the problem of limited computer memory.
The patent was for a one-transistor Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) cell, which we know to be quite simple compared to today’s technology, but it was the first of its kind. It replaced magnetic core memory and has gone on to form the basis of every standard memory chip in the world.
With the first commercial personal computers still some 15 years away, a breakthrough occurred in the late 1960s with the invention of ‘solid state’ memory integrated into computer circuits. Using tiny transistors, it was possible to store significantly more information than ever before. Although much smaller today, the basic principle still remains in current memory modules.
This innovation led to the first 1KB RAM chip being created by ‘Intel’, a company formed by Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore that would go on to become a huge player in the microprocessor world. Microprocessors that are in all PCs used today.
First Personal Computer
In the mid-eighties, the first recognisable personal computers came into being, with vastly improved memory capacities at their core. The first Apple Macintosh personal computer came housing 128KB of memory, a stellar leap in just 10 years. Later that same year, the first 1 megabyte chip comes into being. Things were accelerating fast.
Fast forward to 2016 and the average PC has around a massive 4 Gigabytes of memory to play with. Although vastly superior in capacity, today’s RAM hardware would not exist, had those early pioneers not achieved what they did.
Where will we be in another 5 years, 10 or 25 years? Who knows, but whoever produces the first 1 Petabyte (1k Terabytes) or the first Exabyte (1k Petabytes) memory chip will have done so by standing on the shoulders of the great minds from the last century.