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Flash Memory Cards - What They Are, And What They Do


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Digital Cameras, Printers, Laptops, MP3 Players, and mobile phones all have one thing in common, a memory card. The flash-based technology allows the user to hot swap the card between many different devices. These cards are nonvolatile therefore retaining there memory/data when removed from a source of electricity. Memory cards can easily be replaced, formatted, and re-used.

What does this mean to you as a consumer? You have to consider various factors before purchasing. Some of these factors are: price, compatibility, and capacity. Depending on your device your choices may be limited as some devices only allow certain types of memory card, and sometimes even a limit on the capacity.

In today's article, I will talk about some of the major memory cards. As technology advances, these cards grow smaller physically but larger in capacity.

Secure Digital Card (SD)

The most popular of them all, the SD card. These cards fit into most mobile phones, handheld electronics and digital cameras

  • First use in 1999 (I am not sure about this. Please email/comment if you have the right year)

  • Capacity ranges between 8 MB to 4 GB.

  • 32mm x 24mm x 2.1mm

A smaller card called MiniSD was developed to help the cell phone industry as a means of storage. These cards provide the same functionality and benefits of the normal sized one. The company went on ahead to make even a smaller card called the MicroSD which is roughly 1/4 of the size of the normal SD card. Like I said before, as technology grows larger, these cards grow smaller.

MultiMedia Card (MMC)

These cards are just basically a replacement for SD cards. They fit into most SD card readers and supports a maximum speed of 2.5MB/second. This card was developed by SanDisk and Siemens in 1997.

xD Picture Card

The extreme digital card is mostly used in digital cameras. These cards are designed to store high number of images with the least data corruption. The two big companies that support these cards in there cameras are Olympus and FujiFilm

  • Developed by FujiFilm and Olympus

  • 20mm x 25mm x 1.7mm

Compact Flash Card

The CF card is the only card that can operate at two voltages. This allows the card to be hot swapped with many different devices that support it without the risk of data loss or card damage. CF cards ship as two types, Type I and Type II. Both types have different range of capacity. . The card was designed based on the PCMCIA PC Card standard and can fit into a PCMCIA slot with an adapter.

  • Type I: 42.8mm x 36.4mm x 3.3mm

  • Type II: 42.8mm x 36.4mm x 5.5mm

Sony Memory Sticks

You guessed it, developed by Sony to be used in Sony products, though some high end cameras and camcorders may use it because of its high speed. The speed of these cards make them the winner over others in the speed category. These cards are primarily used in Sony digital cameras, and Sony PSP (or other Memory Stick PRO compatible device).

  • Memory Stick Micro (M2): 15 mm x 12.5 mm x 1.2 mm
  • Memory Stick PRO: 50 mm x 21.5 mm x 2.8 mm. The Memory Stick PRO format has an an 8-bit parallel interface with theoretical transfer rates up to 480Mb/s. It is commonly used in high megapixel digital cameras and digital camcorders.
  • Memory Stick PRO DUO: 31 mm x 20 mm x 1.6 mm. The Memory Stick PRO Duo media is about one-third the volume and half the weight of standard-size media, but offers all the advanced functions of Memory Stick PRO media.
General Information:

Like all technology these cards will break. Because of the way a card inserts, the sockets are the most damaged rendering the card useless. It is said that any memory card can only withstand about 10,000 insertions. Physically they are quite sturdy, and are able to withstand heat. Please don't put the card in a heater, drop it or bend it as it will snap. A memory card is capable of reading/writing/executing over a million cycles.

When transferring information on to a memory card please do not remove it half way through, or shake it excessively. Ejecting it, or shaking it may cause the card to lose data, or even worse damage the card itself. These cards are not overly expensive, but there not cheap either so please take care of it.

Lastly, I feel like I must mention this.

Each memory card has a different slot size making them all unique. In a device theres only one memory card that will fit into a given slot. It will also fit in ONE way so if you can't get it in the first time, please refer to your manual and check if you have the correct memory card.

I thank you for your time. See ya!

Affan S


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