The history of flash memory. Part II: card battles

    Hi, Giktayms! The last time there was a speech about the history and development of flash memory. At this time, I propose to delve into the details of the evolution of the most common devices based on the notorious flash memory - memory cards. In addition to widespread standards, there are quite specific ones: some rest in the margins of history, while the rest are still being produced, despite their considerable age. Why some have survived to our days, while others and a couple of years could not stand it, read under the cut.

    Memory stick

    The format was developed by Sony for use in its own devices: phones, photos and video cameras, PlayStation Portable game consoles. The first generation introduced in 1998, the maximum capacity of the card was 128 MB. Eight years later, a Memory Stick PRO developed with SanDisk appeared, which could hold up to 32 GB. Also in 2006, a compact Memory Stick Micro was introduced (it has an M2 index) with the same reading speed indicators as the original card - 14.4 MB / s.

    From the revision to the revision, Sony changed the dimensions of the cards - the entire Memory Stick received four different sizes, from 50x21.5x2.8 for the usual Memory Stick and up to 31x20x1.6 for the Memory Stick PRO Duo and its varieties. PRO Duo and PRO Duo Mark 2 versions were faster than their predecessors, the read speed reached 20 MB / s, and the write speed was 4 MB / s.

    The latest version of the drive is the long name Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo HX, the maximum amount of which is 32 GB. Against the background of previous versions of the card stood out reading speed - 50 MB / s. Now MS-cards are practically not used, with the exception of old Sony devices. The standard, by and large, does not have serious drawbacks, but the limited use did not play into the hands of the Memory Stick. Moreover, with equal capacities, these cards were more expensive than drives of other formats.


    The standard appeared back in 1994. For more than twenty years, he has been favored by many professional photographers and cameramen. The fact is that CF has the best speed characteristics. In addition, the format is also roomy - for example, there are 512 GB cards. The recording speed inspires: up to 167 MB / s in the sixth generation of CF, which appeared in 2010.

    CompactFlash uses a 50 pin connector. Since the card is considered the successor of the PC Card format, it can be inserted into the PCMCIA Type II slot with a passive adapter. In the same way, it connects to the IDE interface, and by taking the active adapter, CF will make friends with SATA, USB and FireWire.

    The next generation is called CFast, and it is incompatible with conventional CompactFlash. The format uses the standard 7-pin SATA interface, with the help of an adapter it can be used as a drive for a computer. But the power connector is different from SATA - it's here 17-pin. The read speed reaches 510 MB / s, there are already models with a capacity of 512 GB.

    The standard CF, it would seem, is good for everyone: fantastically fast, supports large volumes. But there is a serious drawback - the format is physically large (43x36x3.3 mm for Type I and 43x36x5 mm for Type II). Manufacturers need to allocate a lot of space for a CF memory card, while there are much more compact options, like the popular SD. As a result, CompactFlash remains the lot of professional photo and video shooting, where you can not take your finger off the shutter button for a few minutes during high-speed shooting, and the camera's buffer will not overflow. For the rest of the tasks with SD enough head.


    Format released in 1995 by ToshibaThe first time he bore the name SSFDC (Solid State Floppy Disk Card). These cards have not been used for a long time; today it is almost impossible to find drives for sale. And the maximum amount they have is only 128 MB. There were plans to release a 256 MB card, but it never appeared on sale. The read speed did not exceed 2 MB / s. But the development of Toshiba could boast of a record small thickness - 0.76 mm. Even microSD, this indicator is 1 mm. Interestingly, other standards were created primarily for use in cameras and other portable devices, and SmartMedia was positioned as a replacement for floppy disks. The cards came out in two versions, depending on the operating voltage: 3.3V and 5V. Without power, information will be stored on the card for about ten years. The indicator depends on the quality of the materials used.

    The card does not have a memory controller. This decision made SmartMedia cheaper, but deprived of compatibility with old devices - sometimes it was necessary to update the firmware in order to support more capacious flash drives. Later on, another card format without a memory controller appeared on the market - xD-Picture Card. He also did not achieve significant success.


    In 1997, Siemens and SanDiskrevealed to the world a new format of flash cards called MMC. The advantage of the standard is widespread. At one time, MMC was supported by many devices, but later the format was lost to Secure Digital (SD), which was created on the basis of MMC. Over time, other variations of the format appeared: RS-MMC, MMCplus, MMCmobile and MMCmicro. RS-MMC appeared in 2004, the card was designed for mobile devices Nokia and Siemens. It could work not only on a standard voltage of 3.3V, but also on a low voltage of 1.8V. MMCplus and MMCmobile appeared to compete with the increasingly popular SD cards. Both new formats stood out at a fast frequency: 52 MHz, which exceeded the standard MMC (20 MHz) and even microSD (50 MHz).

    The read and write characteristics are quite good: 52 MB / s for both indicators. The very same MMC format in 2008 evolved to eMMC, used in the memory modules of printed circuit boards.

    MMC-format is good in small dimensions - compared to it, the CF-card seems to be enormous. Drives can also work with slots for SD. At the same time there is no backward compatibility: SD cards are slightly thicker than MMC, and simply do not fit into the corresponding slot (at least without a hammer). In general, the MMC was good for everyone, until SD appeared, surpassing it in each indicator.

    xD-Picture Card

    A rather specific and irrelevant format, presented by Olympus and Fujifilm in 2002. The peculiarity is that the card does not have a memory controller. Outputs are connected directly to the pins on the xD-Picture Card itself. As such, this decision did not bring any advantages - yes, the map was compact, but its drawbacks were serious.

    First of all, the maximum possible volume is only 2 GB. Now this is frankly not enough. Although the developers of the format had plans for the development of their interface: for example, in 2005, the production of maps with the index M began, where the theoretical volume was increased to 8 GB. Secondly, the speed of reading stars from the sky is not enough - about 8.5 MB / s. Finally, another drawback lies in the high cost of cards compared to SD. There is no sense in xD-Picture Card now. Both Olympus and Fujifilm are moving to SD standard.

    The card actually represented a microcircuit and, hypothetically, could become a kind of boot disk for the device, saving the gadget if the firmware was not updated correctly or if the internal memory failed. But in practice it was not checked.

    Pc card

    PC Card can be considered the progenitor of memory cards - thanks to this format, flash drives appeared in our usual form. The format was originally called PCMCIA, but because of the difficult abbreviation, he was given the simpler name PC Card. Giant-sized (85.6x54 mm) cards had an impressive 1-4 MB capacity at that time and served to expand memory in computers, and were also used to give them additional functionality in the form of various modems, network cards and other peripherals. There were three types of PC Card - Type I, Type II and Type III. The first line was used just to expand the memory, and through the rest additional devices could be connected.

    Type I format cards were equipped with a 16-bit interface and were intended solely for additional space for file storage. Type-II could have not only 16, but 32-bit output, the contacts were located in two rows. Peripheral devices can be connected via this type of PC Card. Type-III turned out to be even more universal: a thickness of 10.5 mm made it possible to connect standard external interfaces, such as a telephone jack for a modem card.

    Miniature card

    The format was developed by Intel in 1995 as opposed to CompactFlash. The name of the standard is a clean trick. In fact, the Miniature Card, also known as the MiniCard, turned out to be even larger than the CF. The standard was supported by Intel, AMD, Fujitsu, Sharp Electronics, but this did not help him much. He didn’t have any advantages over CompactFlash, and the standard was not well developed. The card worked at a voltage of 3.3V or 5V and was equipped with a 60-pin connector.

    Secure digital memory card

    The main format, which is used in the vast majority of portable electronics, appeared in 1999. The standard was made by Panasonic, SanDisk and Toshiba, the MultiMedia Card was taken as the basis. An important innovation was the protection of data under a special protocol. In addition, a slider is added to the card - if you pull it down, the data can neither be deleted nor written.

    Later, more compact miniSD (20x21.5x1.4 mm) and microSD (11x15x1) appeared. The latter, by the way, was originally called TransFlash, but the name did not stick. For the sake of convenience, adapters are available for these cards, which allows them to be used in devices with full-sized SD slots. Some of the characteristics of miniSD and microSD are the same (the maximum possible transfer rate is 832 MB / s), but microSD is ahead of miniSD in all other respects, including the exchange clock frequency - 208 MHz versus 50 MHz. While the miniSDHC card can have a maximum of 16 GB of capacity, with microSDHC, this value is 32 GB, and the microSDXC has the potential to hold 512 GB. In this case, the microSD is less than one and a half times.

    The volume and speed of recording grew from one generation to another. Now in the fastest SD cards, the write speed exceeds 30 MB / s. The maximum possible volume is 2 TB.

    Instead of conclusion

    The success of a flash card, in addition to the characteristics, depends on its support by various devices. The format with which the producers' heels work will surely be doomed, unless its technical data turns out to be more than excellent. The future is surely for SD cards. At least, now the alternative is not visible. CF is certainly excellent, but very specific - except for photographers (and professional), by and large, no one needs it. So we look forward to further increase the speed and volume of SD.

    Thank you for your attention and stay with Kingston on Hiktatimes!

    For more information about Kingston and HyperX products, visit the company's official website . In choosing your kit HyperX will helppage with visual aids .

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