Don’t swap!

There’s a technical analogy I’d like to share.

(if you’re a non-technical reader, whatever that means, there’s a brief explanation of some terms at the end, but you’ll get the gist anyway)

When your computer runs out of RAM, it starts using the hard disk as if it were RAM. The part of the disk that serves as this makeshift RAM is called the swap space.

Since hard disks are roughly an order of magnitude slower than RAM, whenever your computer starts swapping, it gets very slow, and you get very agitated. Usually, you start overloading your computer even more, because now you’re maximizing and minimizing windows and clicking everything just to see if your system is responsive or not.

Much in the same way, when you’re not focused on the task that’s right in front of you (either because you’re multitasking or you’re distracted by the internet), then you have too much on your plate, you run out of RAM, and so your brain starts swapping. This means that your brain becomes roughly an order of magnitude slower, and a part of you gets very agitated and starts worrying about deadlines and frantically putting your conscience in a blender.

In both cases, the solution is to close the tasks that you don’t need. So, when you find yourself doing many things at the same time or saying to yourself every 30 seconds “what was I going to do now?”, just say loudly to yourself: don’t swap!



For the non-technical readers

Order of magnitude is a way of saying “about ten times”. It is fancy, but I really like to use that term. Also, two orders of magnitude means “about a hundred times” (and not just twenty times), since it’s being implied that the magnitudes are multiplied, not added.

RAM = memory. Memory is volatile, so when you turn off your computer, everything in RAM gets deleted. You don’t store anything in memory – think of it as a highway where the computer places transient data.

Disk = space. Disk is not volatile (most of the time). This is where your data is stored – think of it as a garage.

RAM is more expensive than disk, and that’s why your computer has roughly two orders of magnitude (heh) less memory/RAM than space/disk.