HOME Technology 2005
Digital data at your fingertips
More space in smaller case
The ability to store gigabytes of photos, music and other digital memories on devices no bigger than your little finger or cards the size of a thumbnail, is galaxies away from the 2Mb floppy disk that was the standard removable media only a decade ago.

While the CD with its 760Mb capacity and the DVD, now pushing out beyond 8Mb, have made a world of difference the revolution being created by Flash memory is allowing devices as diverse as mobile phones, MP3 players, notebooks and cameras to slim down to petite levels.

In fact the latest miniature memory cards are rivaling even the DVD for data capacity with 4Gb and 8Gb versions now on the market and, with the right USB drive, able to plug and play with most electronic and computer based devices.

Memory cards come in a variety of formats from Secure Digital (SD) to XD, Memory Stick and CompactFlash, and there’s no end in sight as capacity increases and prices plummet. Ironically most devices are still selling with 32Mb cards in them but these cards that were so leading edge only two years ago are now deleted stock.

The new entry level is 128Mb, an SD card of that capacity sells here for around $49 but in the US they’re less than $NZ10 each. Obviously the size of the local market is keeping prices high, but that won’t last long.

SanDisk CompactFlash cards, typically used for cameras and specialised devices, are up to 4Gb capacity ($749). Its Secure Digital (SD) and Memory Stick cards have reached 2Gb capacity (est $399) and it has just released Memory Stick ProDuo, and ProDuo Gaming disks for PlayStation Portables up to 2Gb. A new Memory Stick Micro (M2) for mobile phones and cameras is in production and TrustedFlash technology which secures content for distribution is on the way.

TrustedFlash has digital rights management embedded, and will allow phone users for example to download music or prevent people copying sensitive documents. Photographers for example who ‘own’ the wedding photos might allow the happy couple to view copy protected images to help select the final prints.

That same technology is embedded in the Gruvi card, positioned as an important next step in music distribution. The thumbnail-sized Gruvi, which works with MP3 players, notebooks and any portable devices, debuted in the US with the Rolling Stones new album Bigger Bang this year.

Kingston, another major player in the flash memory and portable disk market, sells X-rated cards, in other words there’s a rating for the speed at which each device can process the data captured to the card. Kingston's 2Gb CompactFlash Elite Pro card is rated at a 50X which equates to a write speed of 7.5 Mbit/sec.

You might have the latest feature-rich phone, but if you want to move pictures, music or data to your PC, printer and other devices, you'll need quality media.  New 3G handsets from Vodafone and Telecom offer a variety of digital media options including mini-SD, T-Flash, MemoryStick Pro Duo, MMC+ and MMCmobile.

From a temporary or removable storage perspective the USB Flash Drives (or Memory Keys) have become the de facto standard.  These devices include the 1Gb Kingston DataTraveler II (1Gb is about $223) and Imation’s Micro drive. Imation’s .85" Micro drive, encased in a locking shock resistant case with integrated USB 2.0 connector. It comes in 2Gb and a there’s a newly released 4Gb ($265) version. These and a range of other ‘ultra portable’ disk drives are an ideal way of keeping the data that means the most to you wherever you go.

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