Though EPROMs are a big step up from PROMs in terms of reusability, they still require dedicated equipment and a labor-intensive process to remove and reinstall them each time a change is necessary. Also, changes cannot be made incrementally to an EPROM; the whole chip must be erased. Electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM) chips remove the biggest drawbacks of EPROMs.
- The chip does not have to removed to be rewritten.
- The entire chip does not have to be completely erased to change a specific portion of it.
- Changing the contents does not require additional dedicated equipment.
Instead of using UV light, you can return the electrons in the cells of an EEPROM to normal with the localized application of an electric field to each cell. This erases the targeted cells of the EEPROM, which can then be rewritten. EEPROMs are changed 1 byte at a time, which makes them versatile but slow. In fact, EEPROM chips are too slow to use in many products that make quick changes to the data stored on the chip.
Manufacturers responded to this limitation with Flash memory, a type of EEPROM that uses in-circuit wiring to erase by applying an electrical field to the entire chip or to predetermined sections of the chip called blocks. Flash memory works much faster than traditional EEPROMs because it writes data in chunks, usually 512 bytes in size, instead of 1 byte at a time. See How Flash Memory Works to learn more about this type of ROM and its applications.
For more information on ROM and other types of computer memory, check out the links on the next page!