Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM)is a type of non-volatile memory used in computers and other electronic devices to store small amounts of data that must be saved when power is removed, e.g., calibration tables or device configuration.
When larger amounts of static data are to be stored (such as in USB flash drives) a specific type of EEPROM such as flash memory is more economical than traditional EEPROM devices. EEPROMs are realized as arrays of floating-gate transistors.
EEPROM is user-modifiable read-only memory (ROM) that can be erased and reprogrammed (written to) repeatedly through the application of higher than normal electrical voltage generated externally or internally in the case of modern EEPROMs. EPROM usually must be removed from the device for erasing and programming, whereas EEPROMs can be programmed and erased in circuit. Originally, EEPROMs were limited to single byte operations which made them slower, but modern EEPROMs allow multi-byte page operations. It also has a limited life - that is, the number of times it could be reprogrammed was limited to tens or hundreds of thousands of times. That limitation has been extended to a million write operations in modern EEPROMs. In an EEPROM that is frequently reprogrammed while the computer is in use, the life of the EEPROM can be an important design consideration. It is for this reason that EEPROMs were used for configuration information, rather than random access memory.
In 1978, George Perlegos at Intel developed the Intel 2816, which was built on earlier EPROM technology, but used a thin gate oxide layer so that the chip could erase its own bits without requiring a UV source. Perlegos and others later left Intel to form Seeq Technology, which used on-device charge pumps to supply the high voltages necessary for programming EEPROMs.