Flash Memory Boom

Nov 08, 2005 feature
Flash Memory

If you’re not familiar with flash memory, you should be. It’s poised to make a whole host of older technologies obsolete – all to your advantage. You probably own some and are not even aware of it. If you have a digital camera, newer cell phone, USB memory, Ipod or Palm PC - a flash memory is built into every one of these devices.

Flash memory is not a new technology – it has been around for the last 20 years. It was invented by Dr. Fujio Masuoka while working for Toshiba in 1984. What’s new is low price and high availability.

The way flash memory works is fairly straight forward: information is stored in cells with each cell holding a one or zero – the binary numbering system all computers use. These cells are known as floating gate transistors and are arranged in arrays for rapid access.

Even though accessing these cells is slow compared to regular RAM – the Random Access Memory that your computer uses - flash memory has one major benefit: it does not need a constant supply of electricity to store data. This makes it perfect for devices using batteries like digital cameras, pocket PCs and cell phones.

Flash memories also make great storage devices to carry MP3s, images and data files. Instead of using a floppy disk - with a low capacity of just 1.44 MBs - to move your files from home to work, for example, you can get a USB flash memory - models ranging from 128MB up to 2GB.

Prices range from giveaway to several hundred dollars. $50 will get you a decent quality memory that will have enough space for most needs. MP3 fanatics will want larger capacity models as song libraries frequently run over 1 GB.

Samsung even has a 32GB monster memory under development – almost the capacity of a standard hard drive.

These memories have replaced CDs as my primary way to move information. They cost more initially, but save over the long run with their ability to be erased and reused. On top of that, they transfer data much faster and are more reliable.

USB Memory

It’s predicted in the long run these devices will even replace your computer’s hard drive. Two factors are currently blocking this change: First, they cost more per GB – about 10 times more at the writing of this article. Second, they have a limited number of erase operations that can be preformed depending on the type – anywhere from low of 10,000 to a high of 1,000,000. So they do wear out – but only after long, hard use.

I’ve actually run small databases on USB Flash Memories and they can last for several years before needing to be replaced.

Another huge benefit is their size. An SD flash memory is smaller than a postage stamp and almost as thin; it can hold up to 1GB of data. No competing technology can offer this ratio of size to megabyte of storage.

Since the technology is still relatively young there are competing standards making it harder to choose which type of memory to buy. The best bet is to stick the recommended memory type for your specific device. If you have the option of buying faster memory – usually offered as an upgrade when purchasing digital cameras – it’s a good idea if you plan on taking a lot of photos. Digital cameras need time to “write” to their memories meaning you must wait a few seconds after taking a photo for the camera to process and save the image before you can take another picture. Faster memory reduces this wait time.

For transferring data from one computer to another, I prefer generic USB memories. These memories plug into virtually all computers and show up as another storage device in My PC. They also do not require a special card reader – necessary for the card and stick memory types - since most computers 5 years old or less have built in USB ports.

6 in 1 card readers that handle all the major flash memory types illustrated are cheap – less than $60. They come with a USB cable to connect to your computer.

Get the largest memory you can afford as the price per MB is less and the extra space will come in handy. Then you can enjoy the freedom of carrying all your files with you in one easy-to-use compact device.

by Chuck Rahls, Copyright 2005 PhysOrg.com

Explore further: Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

StoreDot has plans for 30-second battery charge

Apr 08, 2014

(Phys.org) —You heard it last month, last week and most probably will hear the same message tomorrow: battery-bothered ordinary citizens wish that the best and brightest in labs could just take their hands ...

Big, fast, weird data

Apr 08, 2014

The "Big Data" research that continues to dominate IT agendas has traditionally focused on making sense of the growing volumes of computer data. Yet in recent years, the volume question has given way to the other V's of Big ...

Experts explain why big data is a big deal

Mar 21, 2014

Turns out even the experts have difficulty wrapping their heads around the concept of how quickly – and drastically – what's come to be called 'big data' has changed our daily lives.

Recommended for you

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

1 minute ago

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, ...

Unlocking secrets of new solar material

1 minute ago

(Phys.org) —A new solar material that has the same crystal structure as a mineral first found in the Ural Mountains in 1839 is shooting up the efficiency charts faster than almost anything researchers have ...

Ten ways 3D printing could change space exploration

41 minutes ago

This close-up shows a titanium ball manufactured by 3D printing. ESA is investigating the potential of this promising new technology to transform the way space missions are put together.

Students turn $250 wheelchair into geo-positioning robot

53 minutes ago

Talk about your Craigslist finds! A team of student employees at The University of Alabama in Huntsville's Systems Management and Production Center (SMAP) combined inspiration with innovation to make a $250 ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

How does false information spread online?

Last summer the World Economic Forum (WEF) invited its 1,500 council members to identify top trends facing the world, including what should be done about them. The WEF consists of 80 councils covering a wide range of issues including social media. Members come ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Melting during cooling period

(Phys.org) —A University of Maine research team says stratification of the North Atlantic Ocean contributed to summer warming and glacial melting in Scotland during the period recognized for abrupt cooling ...

Australia's dirty secret: who's breathing toxic air?

Australians living in poorer communities, with lower employment and education levels, as well as communities with a high proportion of Indigenous people, are significantly more likely to be exposed to high ...