Removable Storage: Smaller Than Ever!


Posted on 12th December 2015 by admin in Tech


rssA new company, DataPlay, believes hard drives aren’t the only spinning media worth miniaturizing. Its half-dollar-size DVD-based discs could have a big impact this year. In the first quarter of 2013, device manufacturers should begin announcing products using the discs. The discs store 250MB of data per side but are only write-once.


The GROWING popularity of handheld devices has spawned an entire industry of teeny storage media. Flash memory rules, but the multitude of competing standards confuses just about everybody.

Easily the most common flash memory modules are the 1.7-by-1.4-inch CompactFlash cards. Gaining in popularity are similar-size (but slightly cheaper) SmartMedia cards, which have a thinner profile. Both formats offer 8MB to 300MB cards, but CF supplies its own I/O intelligence, while SM relies on the device reading it to supply the brains; the latter arrangement puts the burden on device makers to provide in advance for higher capacities or at least to establish a software upgrade path.

But there’s more. Pocketsize devices have led to an even smaller flash format–MultiMedia, or MultiMediaCard (MMC). About the size of a postage stamp and available in capacities from 8MB to 64MB, MMC is pricey but is also as small as storage currently gets. By mid-2001, Secure Digital–a slightly thicker version of MMC that adds both encryption and security–should be available.

Meanwhile, Sony has its Memory Stick modules. About as big as a stick of gum, the media’s size is appealing, but do we need another proprietary standard? Units ranging from 8MB to 64MB are currently available; a 128MB Memory Stick will ship soon.

Into this confusing field comes IBM’s Microdrive. The Microdrive is a true hard drive, but this tiny powerhouse measures only 0.2 inches by 1.4 inches by 1.7 inches, weighs about 0.5 ounce, and is available in capacities up to 1GB. The 340MB model costs $299, and the 1GB unit is just $399, making this media about four times cheaper per MB than flash memory. An adapter lets you install the drives in PC Card slots, too.

Alas, with the drive’s CF+ profile, only newer devices that support this slightly thicker CF format can use it. International Data Corporation analyst Xavier Pucel says it’s difficult to predict when this overcrowded standards market will shake out. It’s a safe bet that CF and SM will continue to dominate in larger devices such as cameras, but MMCs and possibly the Memory Stick should gain ground in compact, mobile devices.


SCIENTISTS WORLDWIDE are working on holographic storage technologies–once a scifi pipe dream–that use lasers and a doped crystalline medium. When this storage becomes practical, perhaps within a couple of years, its capacity and bandwidth will make today’s magnetic memory as outmoded as punch cards.

For now, choose your memory media carefully, and be glad big capacities come in small–and light–packages.

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