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What Is a Zero Page?

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  • Written By: M. McGee
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 21 July 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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The zero page is the portion of a computer’s memory at the very beginning of is address space. The zero refers to the memory addresses contained in this area, since it is at the very beginning that the addresses all begin with zero. In older computers, this space was reserved for primary functions and critical information. As time went on, fewer systems relied on the zero page and its special treatment became less common. In newer computers, this memory address is often kept clean as a way of monitoring the memory usage of programming and looking for errors.

The memory usage of older computer systems is in many ways the same as it is in newer models. When programs are executed, will be executed soon or have recently finished operating, they are moved from storage to active memory. Active memory operates much faster and allows the program to work with less wait time. The computer keeps track of all this memory by assigning addresses to programs, basically the same as the address on a house.

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For the most part, when a computer is powered down, the active memory is lost. As a result, when a computer first turns on, the memory should be totally empty. This means that the very first bits of information loaded into the system would go at the very front of the memory lists, or on the zero page. To make sure that everything worked as it should, certain functions were built to operate in this memory area and other programs were kept out.

As time when on, computer speeds increased dramatically. While memory speed increased along with everything else, processor speed slowly met and overtook it in regards to several functions. This change made the zero page significantly less important, and many systems stopped using it as a result. It became easier to let the system make its own decisions as to where information was kept, rather than attempting to control it on such a minor level.

Modern computers will often forgo the zero page entirely. Some processors will still allocate a small amount of memory at the beginning of address space, which it intentionally keeps empty. When a program messes up and tries to access memory that doesn’t exist, the malformed memory pointer will simply point to the first available address. By monitoring the empty section for these pointers, it is possible to locate malfunctioning programs. In many ways, this is the opposite of the original zero page; rather than being packed with essential programs, it is empty and waiting for malfunctions.

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