Tag Archives: Verbatim

A New Concept In Storage, Or Too Small To Matter?

It’s finally arrived: the USB flash drive that thinks it’s a floppy disk.

It was like this: For years stuff — data, programs — was moved around via a floppy disk. First they were big 5” things, then they shrank to 3”. Iomega tried to win people over with ZIP drives but they never really penetrated much deeper than a few suckers like me who invested hundreds of dollars in stacks of them. (Tip: Never buy a storage device where the intellectual property is held by one company.)

Then the CD-ROM came along, and got so cheap it became simpler to just burn data onto them to hand around as one would a floppy disk. The problem is that they’re not all reusable, meaning lots of CD-ROMs sitting around useless and old. Then the USB flash drive started making headway, getting smaller, easier to use and cheaper. Folk started carrying them on a keychain, or around their neck, and swapping stuff like in the old days. But they were never so cheap that you had more than half a dozen of them, so they never quite became floppy drives. A sentence you rarely heard was: “Here copy the data onto my USB drive and take it; I’ve got thousands of them in the cupboard.”

Now you might. Verbatim/Memorex has today launched the 16MB FlashDisc. At £14 or $20 for a 3-pack, the “new media is set to revolutionise the way in which photos, music and other digital data files are exchanged,” the company hopes.

It certainly looks cute. I can immediately see problems plugging one into crowded and cramped USB ports but the circular thing and colors make it appealing. And there’s some sense in making these things so cheap that people will stock up on them in the same way we used to stock up on floppies. Indeed, “we’ve brought this new product category for sharing digital files to market because our research shows a significant demand exists for low-capacity storage media at a reasonable cost,” Hans-Christoph Kaiser, Verbatim Business Unit Manager, is quoted as saying in the press release. “512MB, 1GB and larger USB drives will remain popular but with FlashDisc we’re providing an entirely new flash-based solution at a low cost that’s within everyone’s reach so providing an ideal solution to everyday needs for storing and sharing electronic data.”

I think the problem is whether 16 megabytes is enough. Nowadays that doesn’t get you very far: four MP3 files, say, or 10 photos of questionable quality. Given the old floppies could hold 1.4 megabytes, the size sounds generous, but that was back in the days of 100 megabyte hard drives. Nowadays they’re 100 gigabytes, meaning these FlashDiscs should store about a gigabyte to make sense. Or is my math all wrong?

Either way, I don’t expect these to raise eyebrows until they come out in capacities that make sense: at least 100 megabytes and I think we might start to listen.

Eight Gigabytes Of Stuff On One DVD

In the next few weeks, expect to be able to buy DVD discs that can store up 16 hours of video or 8.5 GB of Data. Verbatim said yesterday they would this spring release “the industry’s first Double-Layer DVD+R (DVD+R DL) discs”, nearly doubling the storage capacity on DVD recordable discs (from 4.7GB to 8.5GB) on a single side. Verbatim says these discs will be compatible with existing DVD video players and DVD-ROM drives.

That ’16 hours’ bit needs some clarifying: in fact, you could only store up to 4 hours of DVD-quality video — the 16 hours refers to VHS video quality. The way Verbatim say they do this is to have the first recording layer semi-transparent with enough reflectivity for writing/reading data on the first layer, yet transmitting enough laser power to read/write on the second layer by refocusing the laser.

Verbatim expect content developers (read DVD movies, big software packages) to make use of this technology: You could fit two Hollywood movies on one of these discs, if you really wanted to. Is this the time when I can talk about how I remember how all you could get on a floppy drive was less than one megabyte, but how somehow we were happier then? (No – Ed.)