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Last Updated: Friday, 11 February, 2005, 16:10 GMT
Is the future Flash?
Spencer Kelly
By Spencer Kelly
Reporter, BBC Click Online

A range of flash cards
There are several different types of Flash storage
Flash storage is causing a revolution in the storage world.

It is turning up in Smartphones and PDAs, and it is putting the floppy disk out of business.

But it is best known for its contribution to digital photography, where it is fast replacing film.

The main difference between Flash and other storage methods is that it is solid state.

As its name suggests, it is rock solid and has no moving parts.

It is therefore a lot more durable than other storage methods.

Flash storage is very hardy indeed.

To demonstrate this, I saved a video file onto several USB key rings and then subjected them to deadly peril.

I boiled one, drove over another, hit a third with a golf club.

But no matter what happened, even though the casing suffered, the data I had stored on the USB key ring was still there, uncorrupted, after bashing and boiling.

The inside of a flash memory card
Regardless of the casing, Flash memory all looks the same inside
Wayne Arvidson from Iomega Storage says: "There is not really an issue with durability with these devices, they're solid state.

Probably the biggest issue when people use them is they want to just yank them out of the USB port when they're done with them. One thing that you've got to make sure you do is dismount the device before you take it off. That's about the only thing that can trash it."

Flash memory comes in many shapes and sizes, including Compact Flash, SD, xD, SmartMedia and more.

Eli Harari from SanDisk says: "The various formats have found their own natures.

Compact Flash is very popular in industrial and medical applications, instrumentation, factory floor uses and so on, where you don't need small size but you need robustness and ruggedness. SD is very consumer electronics orientated and MiniSD is cellphone orientated, MP3 players and so on."

Regardless of the casing, Flash memory all looks the same inside.

Just like the RAM in your computer, data is stored on chips and can be changed at any time.

Unlike RAM, these chips keep their data even when the power is disconnected, which makes them ideal for portable storage.

A flash memory card and a new 1 gigabyte hard drive
The storage war between new and older technologies is far from over
Flash memory is an EEPROM: Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory.

So what does the future hold for Flash, where is it going?

Well, in the last few days Flash manufacturer SanDisk has announced an improvement to their chip technology, which doubles their capacity.

Eli Harari says: "2007 will have, I expect, 32GB cards. Basically, every year we double the capacity."

But small and fast as Flash is, the older storage technologies are fighting back, and it certainly does not look like the storage war will be won anytime soon.

Click Online is broadcast on BBC News 24: Saturday at 2030, Sunday at 0430 and 1630, and on Monday at 0030. A short version is also shown on BBC Two: Saturday at 0645 and BBC One: Sunday at 0730 . Also BBC World.

Big computer storage gets smaller
04 Feb 05 |  Click Online
Data storage wars
28 Jan 05 |  Click Online

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