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Business Tech - Computer Memory…the Other Kind


When we say "computer memory" we expect that people are thinking about ROM, RAM, maybe EPROM, or even firmware. That's how we are trained to think about the term; as an aspect of the hardware. I'd like to put a more human spin on the term for this column. I want to talk about what the computer does, and does not, remember.

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In the simple electric calculators, "memory" becomes a content term, not a hardware term. It is the way we hold on to more that one numeric thought at a time. Imagine if we designed our primary business systems to work like a high powered version of the no-frills electric calculator: people key in data all day, but our machine can only retain one train of thought — one equation — plus a few completed values. Once the thought completes, and we add or subtract the remembered values, all we have is a result.

Tomorrow, when the boss asks for the total sales of all divisions over the lifetime of the business, we have the answer. If she asks any other question, we have to start data entry all over again because this sort of simple computer remembers none of the components.


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