A memory card or flash memory card is a solid-state electronic flash memory data storage device used with digital cameras, handheld and Mobile computers, telephones, music players, video game consoles, and other electronics. They offer high re-record-ability, power-free storage, small form factor, and rugged environmental specifications. There are also non-solid-state memory cards that do not use flash memory, and there are different types of flash memory.
There are many different types of memory cards and jobs they are used for. Some common places include in digital cameras, game consoles, cell phones, and industrial applications. PC card (PCMCIA) were among first commercial memory card formats (type I cards) to come out in the 1990s, but are now only mainly used in industrial applications and for I/O jobs (using types I/II/III), as a connection standard for devices (such as a modem). Also in 1990s, a number of memory card formats smaller than PC Card came out, including CompactFlash, SmartMedia, and Miniature Card. In other areas, tiny embedded memory cards (SID) were used in cell phones, game consoles started using proprietary memory card formats, and devices like PDAs and digital music players started using removable memory cards.
From the late 1990s into the early 2000s a host of new formats appeared, including SD/MMC, Memory Stick, xD-Picture Card, and a number of variants and smaller cards. The desire for ultra-small cards for cell-phones, PDAs, and compact digital cameras drove a trend toward smaller cards that left the previous generation of "compact" cards looking big. In digital cameras SmartMedia and CompactFlash had been very successful, in 2001 SM alone captured 50% of the digital camera market and CF had a strangle hold on professional digital cameras. By 2005 however, SD/MMC had nearly taken over SmartMedia's spot, though not to the same level and with stiff competition coming from Memory Stick variants, xD, as well as CompactFlash. In industrial fields, even the venerable PC card (PCMCIA) memory cards still manage to maintain a niche, while in cell-phones and PDAs, the memory card market is highly fragmented.
Nowadays, most new PCs have built-in slots for a variety of memory cards; Memory Stick, CompactFlash, SD, etc. Some digital gadgets support more than one memory card to ensure compatibility.
Data table of selected memory card formats
|PC Card||PCMCIA||85.6 × 54 × 3.3 mm||None|
|CompactFlash I||CF-I||43 × 36 × 3.3 mm||None|
|CompactFlash II||CF-II||43 × 36 × 5.5 mm||None|
|SmartMedia||SM / SMC||45 × 37 × 0.76 mm||None|
|Memory Stick||MS||50.0 × 21.5 × 2.8 mm||MagicGate|
|Memory Stick Duo||MSD||31.0 × 20.0 × 1.6 mm||MagicGate|
|Memory Stick PRO Duo||MSPD||31.0 × 20.0 × 1.6 mm||MagicGate|
|Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo||MSPDX||31.0 × 20.0 × 1.6 mm||MagicGate|
|Memory Stick Micro M2||M2||15.0 × 12.5 × 1.2 mm||MagicGate|
|Multimedia Card||MMC||32 × 24 × 1.5 mm||None|
|Reduced Size Multimedia Card||RS-MMC||16 × 24 × 1.5 mm||None|
|MMCmicro Card||MMCmicro||12 × 14 × 1.1 mm||None|
|Secure Digital card||SD||32 × 24 × 2.1 mm||CPRM|
|Universal Flash Storage||UFS|
|miniSD card||miniSD||21.5 × 20 × 1.4 mm||CPRM|
|microSD card||microSD||11 × 15 × 0.7 mm||CPRM|
|xD-Picture Card||xD||20 × 25 × 1.7 mm||None|
|Intelligent Stick||iStick||24 x 18 x 2.8 mm||None|
|Serial Flash Module||SFM||45 x 15 mm||None|
|µ card||µcard||32 x 24 x 1 mm||Unknown|
|NT Card||NT NT+||44 x 24 x 2.5 mm||None|