Pete Roythorne gets to grips with flash memory sticks
Fed up with carrying text-books, CD-Roms, files et al around with you all the time? Why not just store everything on something the size of a small pen, which you can then attach to your key-ring?
Flash memory sticks are fast becoming a must-have for anyone on the move who needs to carry a lot of information around with them.
They allow you to carry large amounts of data - 2 Gigabytes is not uncommon - on a tiny device that can be plugged into the USB (universal serial bus) slot on any computer, and the data accessed or transferred.
A major bonus is that most memory sticks work seamlessly between Mac and PC.
The technology in memory sticks is the same as the memory cards you put in your camera, your phone and your PDA or handheld computer.
Unlike the memory chips that go in your laptop or desktop computer (known as RAM or random access memory), flash memory allows you to keep the stored information without a power supply, so you don't need to have a dedicated power source adding weight to your device.
For a full techy explanation of how flash memory works go to http:computer.howstuffworks.comflash-memory.htm
However, comparing these two types of memory isn't strictly fair, as flash memory is used more as a hard drive for store information than as RAM.
Flash memory has several advantages over a hard drive: it is noiseless, it allows faster access, it is smaller in size, it is lighter and it is considered solid state so has no moving parts.
The reason computers don't use flash memory for everything is that the comparative cost per megabyte is far greater (a 1Gb memory stick costs around pound;50 whereas I recently bought an 80Gb hard drive for about Pounds 40).
The capacity is also substantially higher on a standard hard disk drive.
Although it is worth noting that some manufacturers are looking at using flash memory to make computers that boot-up instantly... but that's another story.
If you combine this technology with the fact that textbooks can now be stored electronically and that word processing is becoming more and more prevalent, it is possible that a student could store all the information necessary for their course on a memory stick... how much would this reduce your school's annual textbook bill by?
Of course the problem of access instantly raises its head, but the thought bears consideration. If it could do this for students, just think how much it could lighten teachers' loads.
Everything you ever wanted to know about flash memory: www.storagesearch.comflash.html
Online Jargon Busters can help you at: www.tes.co.ukJargonbuster