Transferring images from camera to computer was, until recently, a long process requiring serial cable connection. The innovative Sony Mavica digicam let users store images on floppy disk but it soon became clear the floppy would prove inadequate for megapixel images. Higher picture resolution means larger image size which means larger storage capacity. Enter flash media.
CompactFlash and SmartMedia are the miniature successors of the credit card-sized PCMCIA cards. Currently, memory cards can retain up to 96MBs of information that can be transferred to your computer - or even directly to some printers - via a card reader considerably faster than direct camera connection or infrared.
Compactlash is dominant, but the consensus in the industry is that the digital camera market is large enough to sustain conflicting formats, such as Sony's proprietary Memory Stick. Cards are still expensive to buy but good value - leading manufacturer Sandisk guarantees its cards are rewritable up to 10 million images, which is some family photo album! Expect to pay upwards of pound;50 for a card reader from manufacturers such as Chase, Kingston, Sandisk and Fuji. If you haven't yet bought a card reader but intend using removable media there is another option. Some of the new CompactFlash cards are USB-enabled, which means they can be attached directly to the USB port of a computer via a free adaptor.