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Definition: byte addressable

The primary characteristic of random access memory (RAM), which comprises the common DRAM and SRAM chips in every computer. Byte addressability highlights the essential difference between memory and storage. It means that a single character can be written to or read from any memory byte. In contrast, disks, SSDs and flash drives read and write chunks of thousands of bytes at a time (see sector).

Execute Instructions and Process Data
Byte addressability enables the CPU to fetch each program instruction residing in memory in order to execute it. It enables data to be processed. Even a single numeric digit can be calculated, compared and copied independently of the data residing in the byte before or after it. Contrast with block addressable. See storage vs. memory, 3D XPoint, memory, SSD and magnetic disk.

Each Byte Is Addressable
Byte addressable RAM allows contiguous data to be split apart for human readability. For more examples, see 3 C's.

Like a Post Office Box
Each byte of RAM has its own unique address. The operating system stores the program instructions in RAM and records the address of the first instruction. From that point, all instructions reference unique memory locations.