Now that’s what I call quite big[1]

Aren’t memory cards fun? I mean the way the capacities keep increasing, while the prices remain much the same. I remember when a 16MB memory card (of whatever format) was considered (a) quite large[2] and (b) quite expensive. These days, we regard 1GB cards as (a) small and (b) cheap enough to be disposable. And capacities continue to grow. Most of the fun has been on the near-ubiquitous SD format, which in its latest incarnation has a roadmap leading to cards with a quite insane 2TB – that’s two terabytes, which depending on which numbers you use is either 1,000 or 1,024 Gigabytes, either way it’s an insanely large amount of data to put on a tiny card.

While more and more devices use SD (and its derivatives such as SDHC and the new SDXC, not to mention the mini and micro versions), to the point where some of the numerous and quite unnecessary card types might be disappearing, there is still one venerable format that survives – CF (Compact Flash), which is still used in professional and enthusiast cameras by Canon. My first MP3 player used CF cards – I think 32MB was the size at the time, which was enough to hold an album’s worth of low quality MP3 files. But it had been looking like the format was being left behind by the developments in the SD series. To be honest, I don’t think this would be a bad thing. It would make things a great deal simpler if all manufacturers could agree on a standard memory card format rather than have pointless competition – after all, we manage with standards for optical disks, and before that floppy disks were nicely standardised without any problem at all.

But it seems the game is not over. Engadget reports that the Compact Flash association has agreed on a new version 5.0 of the card format. This allows for a maximum capacity of a quite insane 144 Petabytes (a Petabyte being, you guessed it, 1,000[3] Terabytes), which is a bit bigger than the current theoretical limit of 137GB. And as you might expect, the new spec allows for much faster data transfer rates. Well, it would need to, really…

The potential for these devices as extra backups for huge amounts of data is quite impressive. And of course, the potential for people to stroll off with copies of all the corporate data they have access to is immense – while a lot of companies restrict the use of USB memory sticks, most need to allow the use of digital cameras. I suspect there will be a growth in “read only” policies for anything connected to a USB port soon…

[1] Oooerrr, missus, etc
[2] Of course, the files created by the digital cameras of the time were a bit smaller in those days. I couldn’t even get one RAW file from my 5D Mk II on one of those cards…
[3] Or 1,024, but at that kind of scale, who cares?