Ram histogram?
March 6, 2012 6:34 PM   Subscribe

History of ram: How far back would you have to go before 912 GB ram was more than all the ram in the world? A follow up question: is there a graph or something that shows how much ram exists throughout history?

the question came up on MeFightClub.
posted by rebent to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Do you really mean "RAM" or are you referring more generally to computer memory? Because through about 1965, computer memory meant core because semiconductor RAM hadn't been invented yet.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:51 PM on March 6, 2012

RAM please, not anything else
posted by rebent at 7:25 PM on March 6, 2012

I'm making several assumptions including that legacy computers with smaller amounts of memory are balanced by super/premium computers with more memory. Also I'm just guessing at proliferation for 1981-1984. I'm also not accounting for waste, R&D, replaced computers, non-PC products and a ton of other factors (including the possibility the sources are bad.)

Computer proliferation statistics from IDC.

Typical configurations of computers by year.

1980 - 5.0 million computers exist. Typical 1981 machine near 64k. Would take 15 million of these to make 912GB RAM. Perhaps 300GB RAM in the world.

1981 - 8 million? computers. 64k RAM machines. 120GB added for about 420GB RAM in the world.

1982 - 13 million? computers. Average 96k RAM machines. 450GB added bringing the total to ~870GB RAM in the world, but we're quite possibly over 912GB due to factors we didn't account for.

1983 - 19 million? computers. 128k RAM machines. Over 720GB RAM added to the world. At this point it's nearly guaranteed we've passed 912GB RAM in the world when it's added to the previous years' totals.

1984 - 26 million? etc. etc.

1985 - 35.2 million. 512k+ RAM machines being sold. Gigantic amounts are produced each year.

So, my answer is that we'd have to go back to 1981 to be fairly sure 912GB didn't exist yet based on this information, but I'd very much like to see someone improve on this.
posted by michaelh at 7:50 PM on March 6, 2012 [9 favorites]

while michaelh lays out excellent stats for PCs, keep in mind that RAM isn't only present in PCs. Arcade games used RAM chips as well. Pac-man had 6 RAM chips at about 4k each. The published production numbers for Pac-man show 100,000 units being produced in the US, but bootlegs and overseas production probably at least double that number. So at a conservative estimate, that's at least 2GB of RAM in Pac-man games in 1980. While that seems minuscule, think about how many different arcade titles there were and how many were produced worldwide. Home arcade consoles also contained RAM.
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:02 PM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

Building on that: This WP article says there were 13k arcades in North America around 1982 and 4k now. At 50 machines per arcade and 24k RAM, using cosmicbandito's 2x multiplier for world production, that's ~1300k games or 26GB RAM in the 1980-1982 era.

The Atari 2600 had 128 bytes of RAM and sold 7.5 million by 1982 -- that's a little over 1GB of RAM in the world. As far as I can tell from this and the articles it links to, Atari's competitors between 1978-1982 didn't account for more than another 3-4 million sales for maybe another 1-2GB (some of them had more RAM than the 2600.)

That adds up to another 28-30GB RAM which in combination with factors yet to be revealed is probably enough to reach 912GB in 1982 when added to my above numbers.
posted by michaelh at 10:32 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well according to Wikipedia, RAM, as such, didn't really exist at all until 1947, and that was the Williams tube, each of which stored between 512 and 1024 bits of data. Not bytes, bits. Integrated circuits didn't really start being used for RAM until the mid-1970s.

So definitely no earlier than the 1970s. But michaelh's suggestion of 1981 seems accurate.
posted by valkyryn at 6:06 AM on March 7, 2012

I'm think ignoring mainframes and minicomputers might skew your date a bit. They had vastly more RAM than a standalone computer of the time.
posted by smackfu at 12:37 PM on March 7, 2012

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