During a recent desk move within V3's office building, various pieces of old kit were discovered that haven't seen the light of day in several years, and I'm planning to post pictures of some of the more interesting or historical items on this blog.
With the announcement of Google's cloud-based Drive storage service, it seems like an appropriate time to show some old storage devices and media, to remind readers how it used to be before the days of terabyte hard drives and Dropbox.
First up is a SmartMedia card, an early format of Flash storage first introduced in 1995 by Toshiba, this example storing a massive 4MB. Yes, you read that correctly - megabytes, not gigabytes.
These were intended to replace the floppy disk as a removable storage medium, which is probably why they are shaped to resemble a floppy shrunk down to about the same size as an after dinner mint.
Incredible as it may seem, adapters were available so that SmartMedia cards could be read by inserting them into a PC floppy drive, just like you might slip a microSD Card inside an adapter ‘jacket' so it can be read in a device with a standard SD Card slot.
This type of Flash card was once popular in digital cameras, but began to be phased out as smaller formats that had a larger storage capacity became available, and SmartMedia cards are no longer manufactured.
SmartMedia cards had a large number of connections, as shown in the photo, as they used an 8-bit bus to communicate with the host system, while SD Cards use a 4-bit bus or serial communications and thus have fewer connections.
Approximately the same physical size as the SmartMedia example is this Imation DataPlay disk, which was a short-lived optical storage format that could be likened to a miniature CD-ROM or CD-R designed for portable devices such as media players and handheld PDAs.
In this photo, alongside a pound coin and a modern USB memory stick for comparison, you can see the miniature caddy the disk is mounted inside, akin to some DVD-RAM disks.
Few DataPlay devices actually came to market, and the format suffered a similar fate to that of SmartMedia, in that Flash storage was becoming a much more attractive option.
Here is a contemporary news article about DataPlay from V3's predecessor title IT Week, published way back in 2001;
Mobile devices may soon enjoy up to 500MB of low-cost storage from a new type of optical media, available later this year. DataPlay disks, developed by a firm of the same name, are small enough to be used with handhelds such as Palm and Pocket PC systems.
DataPlay's technology, which can be likened to CD-R in miniature, has been under development for several years. Boasting a large capacity in a small form factor and with claimed low power consumption, the technology could be ideal for mobile workers needing to store applications and data such as email messages on their mobile client devices.
The firm just recently announced a deal with storage vendor Imation, which will manufacture and sell DataPlay disks world-wide. The deal should ensure there is an adequate supply of media when the technology is launched at the start of the fourth quarter this year.
DataPlay disks are the size of a large coin, but can store up to 500MB of data. The majority of handhelds currently rely on silicon-based Flash memory cards, most of which have a capacity of 64MB or less. The disks are similar to CD media, as they are intended to be available in both a pre-recorded format - akin to CD-Rom - and a writable format, like CD-R. DataPlay expects that blank disks will sell for between $5 (£3.33) and $10 (£6.66) each. This compares with £38 for a typical 64MB CompactFlash card.
While DataPlay is heavily promoting its technology for consumer applications, the miniature disks also have more serious uses. "DataPlay is for any type of digital content," said Suzanne Stephens, DataPlay's marketing communications manager. She added that while the firm was currently focusing on the consumer side with music content and imaging, there were plans for DataPlay to be incorporated into PDAs and USB readers for PCs. Innogear, a manufacturer of peripherals for Handspring's Palm-compatible Visor range, expects to make available a clip-on DataPlay drive.
Although DataPlay won't be selling many products itself, it does manufacture the drive mechanism used by other vendors. The firm claims an average power consumption of 160mW for the drive, which is comparable with Flash memory.
This is just a sample of the old stuff I've unearthed. More photos will be posted when I get around to it and let us know if you find any old IT kit lurking around.
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