Computer data storage, often called storage or memory, refers to computer components, devices, and recording media that retain digital data used for computing for some interval of time. Computer data storage provides one of the core functions of the modern computer, that of information retention. It is one of the fundamental components of all modern computers, and coupled with a central processing unit (CPU, a processor), implements the basic computer model used since the 1940s.
In contemporary usage, memory usually refers to a form of semiconductor storage known as random-access memory (RAM) and sometimes other forms of fast but temporary storage. Similarly, storage today more commonly refers to mass storage — optical discs, forms of magnetic storage like hard disk drives, and other types slower than RAM, but of a more permanent nature. Historically, memory and storage were respectively called main memory and secondary storage. The terms internal memory and external memory are also used.
The contemporary distinctions are helpful, because they are also fundamental to the architecture of computers in general. The distinctions also reflect an important and significant technical difference between memory and mass storage devices, which has been blurred by the historical usage of the term storage. Nevertheless, this article uses the traditional nomenclature.