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What's the correct form? If both are correct, what's the difference?

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Quite simply it's "memory," and furthermore you must use "of" - just as with any quantity. ("20 gallons of petrol," "200 baskets of wheat" etc. etc.) –  Joe Blow Jun 14 '11 at 11:21
    
So ... to take this further - did I write two lines of codes, two lines of code, two codes, or two code? –  Job Jun 14 '11 at 15:19
    
Incidentally, it's the convention with SI units (and so presumably non-SI units too) to always leave a space between a value and its units, so I'd suggest doing the same here, i.e. 48 GB. –  Steve Melnikoff Jun 14 '11 at 22:34
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3 Answers 3

up vote 25 down vote accepted

It would have to be 'memory', since computer memory is measurable, not countable. In this particular case, 'memories' would be confusing as well as mistaken, since it would imply that the computer has several distinct memories, kept apart for some reason, and either each is 48GB capacity, or they total 48GB. In my experience, the usual phrase is '48 GB of memory' , to avoid this problem.

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+1 there are two memories: countable - something that you remember (childhood memories) and the other is uncountable - the ability to remember things (memory for names) –  Unreason Jun 14 '11 at 8:45
    
+1. But just to be a bit pedantic, a modern computer architecture actually does have several distinct memories used for different purposes. Registers, caches, and hard drive storage all serve a memory function. Nonetheless, it's understood that RAM is the only technical meaning of computer "memory". –  yamad Apr 30 '12 at 18:11
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It is

The computer has 48GB of memory.

Memories are the contents of one's memory, but I've never heard about contents of computer memory being called memories.

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Probably because there are words which are more specific in this context, so memories would be unnecessarily vague metaphor (as opposed to data, information, program) –  Unreason Jun 14 '11 at 8:48
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That'd be 48 gigabytes of RAM, Random-Access Memory, not Memories.

I don't like it, but it looks like some vendors (Apple and HP) have started dropping Random Access:

http://www.apple.com/why-mac/compare/notebooks.html http://www.shopping.hp.com/laptop

"2GB or 4GB memory" "6GB memory"

Dell still spells it out for you:

http://www.dell.com/us/p/inspiron-15r-combo-mod/pd?oc=fndor05&model_id=inspiron-15r-combo-mod

Memory 3GB3 Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz

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"Memory" sounds less technical than RAM, but has the disadvantage of not distinguishing between RAM and hard disk space. –  Andrew Grimm Jun 14 '11 at 9:53
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Regarding dropping the 'of'. Your examples are simply not correct - they are taken from (totally non-grammatical) bullet-point lists. Every single time Apple refers to memory in any normal prose, they say "of memory." You can't omit the "of" when referring to a nondiscrete quantity: simple. (10 gallons of juice, 5 yards of cloth, etc.) The issue of omitting RA from RAM is a separate unrelated issue not germane to Cheng's question. –  Joe Blow Jun 14 '11 at 11:23
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@Andrew - for 10 years at least, it has been very unusual to refer to drives as "memory." Things like disk drives and SSD are just "storage" or "drives." (Disk drives will be gone in a couple years, it is all SSD now.) (Obviously "Hard" has been utterly redundant for what 15 yrs?!!) Memory means memory, live memory. Amongst programmers "doing someting in memory" means specifically doing it live, in the memory, holding a calculation say all in memory all at once -- not using external storage. –  Joe Blow Jun 14 '11 at 11:27
    
Not all computer memory is RAM, it usually is these days, but your suggested replacement is not semantically equivalent. Luckily I don't have enough rep to down vote. *8') –  Mark Booth Jun 14 '11 at 12:55
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