SDRAM (Synchronous DRAM)
Almost all systems used to ship with 3.3 volt, 168-pin SDRAM DIMMs. SDRAM is not an extension of older EDO DRAM but a new type of DRAM altogether. SDRAM started out running at 66 MHz, while older fast page mode DRAM and EDO max out at 50 MHz. SDRAM is able to scale to 133 MHz (PC133) officially, and unofficially up to 180MHz or higher. As processors get faster, new generations of memory such as DDR and RDRAM are required to get proper performance.
DDR (Double Data Rate SDRAM)
DDR basically doubles the rate of data transfer of standard SDRAM by transferring data on the up and down tick of a clock cycle. DDR memory operating at 333MHz actually operates at 166MHz * 2 (aka PC333 / PC2700) or 133MHz*2 (PC266 / PC2100). DDR is a 2.5 volt technology that uses 184 pins in its DIMMs. It is incompatible with SDRAM physically, but uses a similar parallel bus, making it easier to implement than RDRAM, which is a different technology.
Rambus DRAM (RDRAM)
Despite it's higher price, Intel has given RDRAM it's blessing for the consumer market, and it will be the sole choice of memory for Intel's Pentium 4. RDRAM is a serial memory technology that arrived in three flavors, PC600, PC700, and PC800. PC800 RDRAM has double the maximum throughput of old PC100 SDRAM, but a higher latency. RDRAM designs with multiple channels, such as those in Pentium 4 motherboards, are currently at the top of the heap in memory throughput, especially when paired with PC1066 RDRAM memory.
DIMMs vs. RIMMs
DRAM comes in two major form factors: DIMMs and RIMMS.
DIMMs are 64-bit components, but if used in a motherboard with a dual-channel configuration (like with an Nvidia nForce chipset) you must pair them to get maximum performance. So far there aren't many DDR chipset that use dual-channels. Typically, if you want to add 512 MB of DIMM memory to your machine, you just pop in a 512 MB DIMM if you've got an available slot. DIMMs for SDRAM and DDR are different, and not physically compatible. SDRAM DIMMs have 168-pins and run at 3.3 volts, while DDR DIMMs have 184-pins and run at 2.5 volts.
RIMMs use only a 16-bit interface but run at higher speeds than DDR. To get maximum performance, Intel RDRAM chipsets require the use of RIMMs in pairs over a dual-channel 32-bit interface. You have to plan more when upgrading and purchasing RDRAM.
From the top: SIMM, DIMM and SODIMM memory modules
SDRAM initially shipped at a speed of 66MHz. As memory buses got faster, it was pumped up to 100MHz, and then 133MHz. The speed grades are referred to as PC66 (unofficially), PC100 and PC133 SDRAM respectively. Some manufacturers are shipping a PC150 speed grade. However, this is an unofficial speed rating, and of little use unless you plan to overclock your system.
DDR comes in PC1600, PC2100, PC2700 and PC3200 DIMMs. A PC1600 DIMM is made up of PC200 DDR chips, while a PC2100 DIMM is made up of PC266 chips. PC2700 uses PC333 DDR chips and PC3200 uses PC400 chips that haven't gained widespread support. Go for PC2700 DDR. It is about the cost of PC2100 memory and will give you better performance.
RDRAM comes in PC600, PC700, PC800 and PC1066 speeds. Go for PC1066 RDRAM if you can find it. If you can't, PC800 RDRAM is widely available.
Older memory types
Fast Page Mode DRAM
Fast Page Mode DRAM is plain old DRAM as we once knew it. The problem with standard DRAM was that it maxes out at about 50 MHz.
EDO DRAM gave people up to 5% system performance increase over DRAM. EDO DRAM is like FPM DRAM with some cache built into the chip. Like FPM DRAM, EDO DRAM maxes out at about 50 MHz. Early on, some system makers claimed that if you used EDO DRAM you didn't need L2 cache in your computer to get decent performance. They were wrong. It turns out that EDO DRAM works along with L2 cache to make things even faster, but if you lose the L2 cache, you lose a lot of speed.