The history of the USB drive

Most of us have used them, and they allow us to quickly and easily transfer and access the data we need in our everyday lives. USB flash drives, also known as jump drives or pen drives, are small storage devices that can be easily carried and connect with a number of devices including computers and digital products. Today, most computers contain USB connections, and this has increased the popularity of the USB drive over the course of the past five years. With a current available capacity of 1TB, it's amazing that all of this information can be as close as your key ring or bracelet. 

The Many Benefits of Using USB Drives

Unlike other storage devices, the flash drive does not require a power source in order to store your information. Aside from the easy access users enjoy, there are a variety of other benefits of using flash drives including:

  • Fast read access time
  • Improved kinetic shock resistance over hard disks
  • Durable and able to withstand intense pressure, weather extremes, immersion in liquid
  • USB 2.0 connectivity for newer units
  • Dual channel controllers
  • Ability to read at up to 30 megabytes/s (MB/s) and write at about half that


Using the Flash Drive

Using a USB drive is a cinch, and even children have found it easy to access data. Save the data you wish to take with you on your computer. When you plug the flash drive in, it will show up in a folder in "My Computer." Then, you can either cut or copy and paste the document into the flash drive folder on the computer, and your data is ready for you to take with you on-the-go. 

Understanding the History of USB Flash Memory

Doctor Masuoka is credited with the invention of both NOR and NAND types of flash memory. Surprisingly, the technology took early development in the 1980's when he was working at Toshiba. While it could be easy to mistake the term "flash" with the ease in which data is transferred, the name actually has to do with the erasure process. A colleague of Dr. Masuoka commented that it reminded him of a camera flash, and the name stuck. 

Intel was the first to recognize the potential of the product when it was first introduced at an international conference in San Fransisco. The first NOR type flash chip hit the market shortly afterward in 1988. NAND flash was also introduced the same year by Toshiba. Not only was it less expensive, but it also featured faster erase and write times, making it a more popular version. SmartMedia was the first NAND-based format, and this was followed by:

  • MultiMediaCard
  • Secure Digital
  • Memory Stick
  • xD-Picture Card


Current Flash Drive Technology

Since the 80's, much has changed, and flash drive users can take advantage of numerous features. Designs come in all shapes and sizes, and some of the most popular include wristbands, USB people, and even cars. There is now a website, usb.org, that serves as a nonprofit organization responsible for monitoring USB production and distribution. It consists of key players that contributed to the invention and development of USB technology. 

USB technology has also become a popular marketing tool for businesses around the world. Companies can have their logo and information printed on the devices and give them out as promotional items to increase their visibility in the public eye. 

Currently, Apple is the third largest purchaser of USB technology. They use about 13 percent of production. In 2008, the market size was estimated between $10 and 15 billion in production and sales.