How Removable Storage Works

By: Jeff Tyson

How Small Can It Get?

Iomega PocketZip drives provide fast and easy storage using small, 40-MB cartridges.
Photo courtesy Iomega Corporation

One of the common trends in removable storage is to make the physical package smaller while increasing the amount of data that can be stored. Take a look at these examples of each type of technology:


Magnetic storage is moving in two parallel directions. There are products coming out that use small cartridges with capacity measured in megabytes, and there are portable hard drives that range in the gigabytes.


Iomega Peerless drives use cartridges that contain read/write heads in addition to the magnetic media. This allows the cartridges to have capacities of 10 or 20 GB.
Photo courtesy Iomega Corporation


A company named DataPlay has introduced a micro-optical drive. This tiny drive, about the size of a matchbox, uses tiny optical discs that are encased in a plastic shell. Each disc is capable of holding 500 MB of information. The drive actually reads both sides of the disc, meaning that the disc stores 250 MB per side.

A DataPlay cartridge is not much bigger than a U.S. quarter.
Photo courtesy DataPlay
The DataPlay drive is also tiny.
Photo courtesy DataPlay

Solid State

SmartMedia and CompactFlash cards continue to increase in capacity while maintaining their tiny size. Other solid-state memory devices, such as Sony's Memory Stick, are even smaller.

This SmartMedia card holds 64 MB.
Photo courtesy Iomega Corporation
This CompactFlash card holds 128 MB!
Photo courtesy Iomega Corporation

The great news for all of us is that while physical size keeps shrinking, and storage capacity keeps growing, the cost per megabyte keeps dropping! Companies like Iomega and Pockey Drives predict that you will soon be able to take your hard drive with you from one computer to the next, carrying your entire custom setup wherever you go. DataPlay's micro-optical system is a great example of a technology that will impact well beyond the desktop PC, with their drives in everything from digital cameras to MP3 players to PDAs.

For more information on removable storage, check out the links below.

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