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What was the first random access memory device? – MindBounce



Answer: Williams-Kilburn Tubes

Williams-Kilburn Tubes, a distant cousin of our modern DDR RAM modules, were the first random access memory device. Invented in 1946 by Freddie Williams and Tom Kilburn, the memory units were a microcosmic example of computers of the time. They were bulky, terribly sensitive to environmental conditions, had to be manually adjusted and housed in a vacuum-sealed cathode ray tube.

The tubes wrote binary data by projecting it on the front of the tube, just like a television CRT tube projects an image, only in the case of the Williams-Kilburn tubes they created negative and positive charges that could be read by a plate placed over the end of the tube, not an image that would be easily recognizable to an observer ̵

1; some rare tubes had a phosphor coating that allowed computer operators to see where the tube was writing for diagnostic purposes. Each tube could store 512-1024 bits of data.

The Williams-Kilburn was used in many early computers, most notably the Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine – the first computer with electronically stored programs.


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