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Memory cards guide: The basic types of memory cards

A memory card or flash card is a small, electronic, re-recordable data storage device that is used for storing digital information. Many electronic devices, including mobile phones,digital cameras, PDA’s, MP3 players video game consoles and notebooks use different types of flash cards.

The first memory card type, the PC Card (PCMCIA), was released in the 1990’s mainly for use with personal computers. Since that time, different types of memory cards have been developed to meet the dynamic needs of the consumer market. Let’s examine the more common types of flash cards as of 2011 to help find the right flashcard for you.

1.      CompactFlash (CF)

CompactFlash(CF) is one of the more common flash card. It comes in two types; Type I and Type II— both compatible with many high-end digital cameras. Type II CompactFlash is usually thicker than Type I and offers a higher data storage capacity, such as 512MB or 1GB.

Although bigger than most other flash cards, the CF is inexpensive and easy to find. It also comes with a controller chip that facilitates higher transfer rates.

2.      Secure Digital Card (SD card)

Secure Digital card, measuring approximately 32 mm x 24 mm x 2.1 mm, is a second generation Multimedia Card that has been in use since 1999. It features a popular locking switch that prevents stored data from being read, written or deleted.

The popularity of the SD card has seen development of the miniSD Memory Card and microSD Card. These SD card formats are designed to meet the growing need for smaller flash cards for newer sophisticated gadgetry, including smartphones, digital cameras and digital video camcorders.

The miniSD (typically measuring 21.5 mm x 20 mm x 1.4 mm) offers between 16MB to 256MB of storage. The MicroSD at 1/4th the size of the SD card, on the other hand, offers storage capacity of up to 4GB. The MicroSD is currently the smallest flash card in the market.

3.      Memory Stick

Memory Stickflash cards were initially developed by Sony for use with Sony electronic devices. They are commonly used with CyberShot digital cameras. Most SonyMemory Sticks, however, have a 128 MB storage limitation.

Nonetheless, different formats of the Sony Memory stick, including Sony MemoryStick PRO, Memory Stick Duo and Memory Stick Pro Duo are available. These formats are designed to overcome the 128 MB storage limitation and offer more functionality.

4.      SmartMedia Card

The SmartMedia card, jointly invented by Olympus and Fuji, is a common digital camera storage media for Olympus and Fuji digital cameras. It is smaller and thinner than CompactFlash cards and also has a has 128MB storage limitation.

Final word

When buying your memory card, consider price, storage capacity and the compatibility of the card you identify with your device. Some devices support a specific type of memory card only and may also require a specific card size. Read the device manufacturer's manual to ensure you purchase a compatible memory card.

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