The history of the USB flash drive

Computer users have come to rely on USB flash drives. Whether they call them jump drives, thumb drives, or pen drives, they have become an invaluable tool for storing and transporting data. No more flimsy, easily-breakable floppy disks prone to failure. USB flash drives have made them obsolete.

Flash memory was invented by Doctor Masuoka while working for Toshiba in the 80’s. The name "flash" was suggested by one of the doctor’s assistants, because the erasure process of the memory contents reminded him of a flash of a camera. The product was first shown at an International conference in San Francisco. Intel immediately saw the massive potential of this new invention and introduced the first commercial NOR type flash chip in 1988. Compact Flash was originally based on this type of flash chip, although later on manufactures’ moved to the less expensive NAND flash.

Toshiba presented NAND flash in 1988. It had faster erase and write times, and was cheaper to produce as it required a smaller chip area per cell than NOR type. The first NAND-based removable media format was SmartMedia followed by MultiMediaCard, Secure Digital, Memory Stick and xD-Picture Card. NAND flash memory is used in the manufacture of USB memory stick products.

IBM sold the earliest 8MB version in 2001 under the product name ‘Memory Key’, and it quickly followed with a 16MB version, and by 2003, they were manufacturing a 64MB version. Remember, this is megabyte not gigabyte as we’re used to at the moment! Storage capacity continues to increase all the time, and now 64GB and 128GB USB flash drives are common.