Change in the pool of genes of a small population that takes place strictly by chance. Genetic drift can result in genetic traits being lost from a population or becoming widespread in a population without respect to the survival or reproductive value of the gene pairs (alleles) involved. A random statistical effect, genetic drift can occur only in small, isolated populations in which the gene pool is small enough that chance events can change its makeup substantially. In larger populations, any specific allele is carried by so many individuals that it is almost certain to be transmitted by some of them unless it is biologically unfavourable.
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Random-access memory (usually known by its acronym, RAM) is a computer data storage. Today it takes the form of integrated circuits that allow the stored data to be accessed in any order, i.e. at random. The word random thus refers to the fact that any piece of data can be returned in a constant time, regardless of its physical location and whether or not it is related to the previous piece of data.
This contrasts with storage mechanisms such as tapes, magnetic discs and optical discs, which rely on the physical movement of the recording medium or a reading head. In these devices, the movement takes longer than the data transfer, and the retrieval time varies depending on the physical location of the next item.
The word RAM is mostly associated with volatile types of memory (such as DRAM memory modules), where the information is lost after the power is switched off. However, many other types of memory are RAM as well (i.e. Random Access Memory), including most types of ROM and a kind of flash memory called NOR-Flash.
As both SRAM and DRAM are volatile, other forms of computer storage, such as disks and magnetic tapes, have been used as "permanent" storage in traditional computers. Many newer products instead rely on flash memory to maintain data between sessions of use: examples include PDAs, small music players, mobile phones, synthesizers, advanced calculators, industrial instrumentation and robotics, and many other types of products; even certain categories of personal computers, such as the OLPC XO-1, Asus Eee PC, and others, have begun replacing magnetic disk with so called flash drives (similar to fast memory cards equipped with an IDE or SATA interface).
There are two basic types of flash memory: the NOR type, which is capable of true random access, and the NAND type, which is not; the former is therefore often used in place of ROM, while the latter is used in most memory cards and solid-state drives, due to a lower price.
In many modern personal computers, the RAM comes in an easily upgraded form of modules called memory modules or DRAM modules about the size of a few sticks of chewing gum. These can quickly be replaced should they become damaged or too small for current purposes. As suggested above, smaller amounts of RAM (mostly SRAM) are also integrated in the CPU and other ICs on the motherboard, as well as in hard-drives, CD-ROMs, and several other parts of the computer system. The overall goal of using a memory hierarchy is to obtain the higher possible average access speed while minimizing the total cost of entire memory system.
As a common example, the BIOS in typical personal computers often have an option called “use shadow BIOS” or similar. When enabled, functions relying on data from the BIOS’s ROM will instead use DRAM locations (most can also toggle shadowing of video card ROM or other ROM sections). Depending on the system, this may or may not give a performance boost. On some systems the benefit may be hypothetical because the BIOS is not used after booting in favour of direct hardware hardware access. Of course, somewhat less free memory is available when shadowing is enabled.
Since 2006, "Solid-state drives" (based on flash memory) with capacities exceeding 150 gigabytes and speeds far exceeding traditional disks have become available. This development has started to blur the definition between traditional random access memory and "disks", dramatically reducing the difference in performance.
Currently, CPU speed improvements have slowed significantly partly due to major physical barriers and partly because current CPU designs have already hit the memory wall in some sense. Intel summarized these causes in their Platform 2015 documentation (PDF)
“First of all, as chip geometries shrink and clock frequencies rise, the transistor leakage current increases, leading to excess power consumption and heat (more on power consumption below). Secondly, the advantages of higher clock speeds are in part negated by memory latency, since memory access times have not been able to keep pace with increasing clock frequencies. Third, for certain applications, traditional serial architectures are becoming less efficient as processors get faster (due to the so-called Von Neumann bottleneck), further undercutting any gains that frequency increases might otherwise buy. In addition, partly due to limitations in the means of producing inductance within solid state devices, resistance-capacitance (RC) delays in signal transmission are growing as feature sizes shrink, imposing an additional bottleneck that frequency increases don't address.”
The RC delays in signal transmission were also noted in Clock Rate versus IPC: The End of the Road for Conventional Microarchitectures which projects a maximum of 12.5% average annual CPU performance improvement between 2000 and 2014. The data on Intel Processors clearly shows a slowdown in performance improvements in recent processors. However, Intel's new processors, Core 2 Duo (codenamed Conroe) show a significant improvement over previous Pentium 4 processors; due to a more efficient architecture, performance increased while clock rate actually decreased.