USB Flash Drives – USB stick, USB RAM, Memory Stick

The near-ubiquitous USB flash drive is of course improperly named, as it has no drive as such, but the term was initially coined because the devices were seen as replacements for floppy disks drives for transferring data between PCs. The 1.44MB capacity limit of floppies was beginning to render them useless as the popularity of PC’s, networks and the internet in particular meant that files were simply too big. Flash drives first came out in 2000, a couple of years after the beginning of the internet explosion which led to people buying PCs in order to actually access the internet, whereas prior to that, they were buying PCs to do particular jobs, and maybe get internet access. This shift in attitude increased the number of PCs in use and the amount of data that needed to be transported, and USB flash drives provided not only the higher capacities needed, but were faster and sturdier than floppies into the bargain. There are many terms used for these devices, such as thumb drives, memory keys, memory sticks (although this is actually a trade mark for Sony’s proprietary memory cards) or pen drives, but flash drive seems to be the most universally accepted. As flash memory technology has improved, the capacity of these devices has increased dramatically and the adoption of the USB 2.0 standard has allowed faster data transfer speeds. Flash drives of capacities larger than many CDs are now commonplace, allowing them to be used for software distribution, operating systems, backing up and taking whole computing environments around, although the most common use is still to carry around personal data...

Sony Memory Stick technology and background

Sony are the only consumer goods manufacturer to have stuck with their own proprietary removable memory card. Their Memory Stick brand, introduced in 1998, actually covers a variety of different formats that have evolved as devices have changed, getting physically smaller but demanding more storage capacity. As with other memory card formats, the cards are made with solid state memory that retains the data once it’s removed from a device, so is used to backup data or transfer it to a PC. The term Memory Stick (MS) is a Sony trade mark for their memory cards and should not be confused with USB memory keys, or thumb sticks. They are often referred to as memory sticks but this is a generic term. Sony introduced their own format as a way of tying customers into their products, and are able to do this because they are strong in a breadth of consumer product markets where a method of transferring information such as pictures, videos, music and general computer files is required. MS cards are used directly in digital cameras, camcorders, mp3 players, Playstation game consoles and Sony Ericsson mobile phones. To enable the contents to be read by PCs, USB card readers can be used, or adapters that allow a Memory Stick to mimic another memory card format. These adapters for Memory Stick to PC Card or (CF) conversion are more expensive than those required for some other card formats as they need a controller chip to facilitate the translation. The table below gives a quick reference to the essentials of the different formats that have evolved. The original format...

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