How Flash Memory Works

Flash Memory Standards

Samsung Electronics shows off the world's first 30-nanometer 64-gigabit Flash memory device.
Samsung Electronics shows off the world's first 30-nanometer 64-gigabit Flash memory device.
Kim Jae-Hwan/AFP/Getty Images

Both SmartMedia and CompactFlash, as well as PCMCIA Type I and Type II memory cards, adhere to standards developed by the Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA). Because of these standards, it is easy to use CompactFlash and SmartMedia products in a variety of devices. You can also buy adapters that allow you to access these cards through a standard floppy drive, USB port or PCMCIA card slot (available in some laptop computers). For example, games for Sony's original PlayStation and the PlayStation 2 are backwards-compatible with the latest console, PlayStation 3, but there is no slot for the memory cards used by the older systems. Gamers who want to import their saved game data on the newest system have to buy an adapter. Sony's Memory Stick is available in a large array of products offered by Sony, and is now showing up in products from other manufacturers as well.

Although standards are flourishing, there are many flash-memory products that are completely proprietary in nature, such as the memory cards in some video game systems. But it is good to know that as electronic components become increasingly interchangeable and are able to communicate with each other (by way of technologies such as Bluetooth), standardized removable memory will allow you to keep your world close at hand.

In September 2006, Samsung announced the development of PRAM -- Phase-change Random Access Memory. This new type of memory combines the fast processing speed of RAM with the non-volatile features of flash memory, leading some to nickname it "Perfect RAM." PRAM is supposed to be 30 times faster than conventional flash memory and have 10 times the lifespan. Samsung plans to make the first PRAM chips commercially available in 2010, with a capacity of 512 MB [source: Numonyx]. They'll probably be used in cell phones and other mobile devices, and may even replace flash memory altogether.

For more information on flash memory, other forms of computer memory and related topics, check out the links below.

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More Great Links


  • Gizmodo UK. "Pretec unveils 100GB CompactFlash card: Golly!" Sept. 26, 2008. (Oct. 6, 2008)
  • Numonyx. "Intel, STMicroelectronics deliver industry's first phase change memory prototypes." Feb. 6, 2008. (Oct. 10, 2008) IntelSTDeliverFirstPCMPrototypes.aspx
  • "What is SmartMedia Flash card?" (Oct. 6, 2008)
  • "Phase change to replace Flash?" Dec. 11, 2006. (Oct. 10, 2008) 551-77782-581.html