Tuesday, 18 September 2018 12:59

Chinese and Korean phone makers: ROM stands for 'read-only memory'. Stop using this term!


Chinese and Korean phone makers are ignorantly suggesting their phones come with "read only memory" or ROM when describing the storage size on their devices.

Hello Chinese and Korean smartphone and tablet makers! We know that English isn't your natural language, but when you use it, can you please at least use it correctly?

An example of one of China's major smartphone makers, OPPO, using the word ROM incorrectly, can be see above. It's ludicrous!

Samsung does this too in its Note9 specs, correctly stating "memory" for the available storage on a 128GB unit (after the OS and apps), but calling the 128GB storage as ROM in the specs! See below...

Read only memory means just that – read only. A total of 256GB of ROM would mean that you could only access the files and information that was originally stored there, and while changes can be made (see the Wikipedia definition below), it is nowhere near as easy as standard flash storage memory or a hard disk to save and change information. .

I know the poetic sound of RAM and ROM has an allure.

RAM stands for random access memory, while ROM is read-only memory.

Why can't manufacturers say storage? Apple says "capacity" and just lists the available number of gigabytes.

Or just something else, anything beyond a term that is wrong! ROM and wrong even sound similar.

Oppo, Samsung and everyone else – stop it! You're only making yourselves look stupid, while teaching young people the wrong thing.

I fully get that language evolves, but some things are just stupid, and whoever the person was that decided to call rewritable memory as ROM needs to know it's just plain wrong.

Here's what Wikipedia has as its definition for ROM: 

"Read-only memory (ROM) is a type of non-volatile memory used in computers and other electronic devices. Data stored in ROM can only be modified slowly, with difficulty, or not at all, so it is mainly used to store firmware (software that is closely tied to specific hardware, and unlikely to need frequent updates) or application software in plug-in cartridges.

"Strictly, read-only memory refers to memory that is hard-wired, such as diode matrix and the later mask ROM (MROM), which cannot be changed after manufacture. Although discrete circuits can be altered in principle, integrated circuits (ICs) cannot, and are useless if the data is bad or requires an update. That such memory can never be changed is a disadvantage in many applications, as bugs and security issues cannot be fixed, and new features cannot be added.

"More recently, ROM has come to include memory that is read-only in normal operation, but can still be reprogrammed in some way. Erasable programmable read-only memory (EPROM) and electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM) can be erased and re-programmed, but usually this can only be done at relatively slow speeds, may require special equipment to achieve, and is typically only possible a certain number of times."

The Oxford English Dictionary online is very succinct:

ROM is an abbreviation for "Read-only memory".


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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