It is a type of non-volatile memory used in computers and other electronic devices.
Use for storing data
Since ROM (at least in hard-wired mask form) cannot be modified, it is really only suitable for storing data which is not expected to need modification for the life of the device. To that end, ROM has been used in many computers to store look-up tables for the evaluation of mathematical and logical functions (for example, a floating-point unit might tabulate the sine function in order to facilitate faster computation). This was especially effective when CPUs were slow and ROM was cheap compared to RAM.
The use of ROM to store such small amounts of data has disappeared almost completely in modern general-purpose computers. However, Flash ROM has taken over a new role as a medium for mass storage or secondary storage of files.
Types of ROM
- Programmable read-only memory (PROM), or one-time programmable ROM (OTP), can be written to or programmed via a special device called a PROM programmer. Typically, this device uses high voltages to permanently destroy or create internal links (fuses or antifuses) within the chip. Consequently, a PROM can only be programmed once.
- Erasable programmable read-only memory (EPROM) can be erased by exposure to strong ultraviolet light (typically for 10 minutes or longer), then rewritten with a process that again needs higher than usual voltage applied. Repeated exposure to UV light will eventually wear out an EPROM, but the endurance of most EPROM chips exceeds 1000 cycles of erasing and reprogramming.
- Electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM) is based on a similar semiconductor structure to EPROM, but allows its entire contents (or selected banks) to be electrically erased, then rewritten electrically, so that they need not be removed from the computer (or camera, MP3 player, etc.). Writing or flashing an EEPROM is much slower (milliseconds per bit) than reading from a ROM or writing to a RAM (nanoseconds in both cases)