I was solving some old MCQs and found this question:

A RAM chip has 7 address lines, 8 data lines and 2 chip select lines. Then the number of memory locations is _____.

(A) $2^{12}$ (B) $2^{10}$ (C) $2^{19}$ (D) $2^{13}$

Assuming a word consisting of a byte, this should have

2 chip select lines, meaning total $2^2$ chips.

With 7 address lines, we can address $2^7$ memory locations in a chip.

8 data lines should be used to access only the data in the memory location, and not to specify any location.

That'll make for a total of $2^2\times2^7=2^9$ memory locations. But none of the option matches my answer. What should be the correct answer?

  • $\begingroup$ My guess would be $2^2 \times 2^7 \times 8 = 2^{12}$. $\endgroup$ Apr 10, 2020 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ There's always a correct answer and an expected answer, and they are often not the same. With the information given, Yuval's is a good guess that the question considers each bit to be stored in its own memory location, making the answer $2^{12}$ - 512 addresses, and 8 bits per address. If $2^9$ was in the list of possible answers, or "none of the above", you'd pick that instead. $\endgroup$
    – gnasher729
    Apr 10, 2020 at 14:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm nitpicking, but the fact that there are 2 chip select lines doesn't mean that all 4 chips exist. The same goes for the 7 address lines.. maybe not all addresses are valid. I could even think of a RAM chip with unaddressable locations... A better question would have been "What is the maximum number of addressable locations?" $\endgroup$
    – Steven
    Apr 11, 2020 at 1:13
  • $\begingroup$ What I don't understand is why do we have to multiply the 8 data lines in it? any reason? $\endgroup$
    – Adnan
    Apr 12, 2020 at 19:16

1 Answer 1


Here is an actual chip! From the '70s :

Motorola MC6810



128 bytes : 128 * 8bits = 1024 bits = $2^{10}$ "memory cells".

I suppose the author considers each bit in a RAM as a "memory location", the way a memory is addressed, the data bus width, doesn't change its capacity : A 1Mega * 8bits RAM has the same capacity as a 512k * 16bits.

On the MC6810, there are 6 chip select inputs, but they are used to ease the selection of different chips connected in parallel, they don't add to the RAM storage capacity.

  • $\begingroup$ imgur.com/a/tWK6LGM We can see 7 address lines, and 8 data lines. Motorola also states this is 128x8 bit chip, so having 4 such chips in parallel can provide 128x4 = 512x8bits of data. So can we say the options in the question are incorrect? $\endgroup$
    – Adnan
    Apr 25, 2020 at 19:06

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