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A `Flash' Of Memory For Your Gadgets

Bits & Bytes


MANUFACTURERS ARE PACKing more and more computer power into consumer devices such as pagers, cellular phones, and cameras. Problem is, these gadgets don't have a lot of space to store data: Disk drives are too big and require far too much power. The business-card-size memory cards used in some laptop and palmtop PCs are also too large. SunDisk Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., thinks it has the answer: a tiny removable card, packed with "flash" memory chips that, unlike most memory chips, retain data even when the power is turned off. The card, dubbed CompactFlash, is smaller and thinner than a matchbook and weighs a mere half-ounce but can store up to 15 megabytes of data.

How could CompactFlash be used? SunDisk has a few suggestions. A single 2-megabyte card, costing about $150, can store 24 pictures in a digital camera--and be used over and over. Or the cards could enable pagers to store voice mail and allow cellular phones to receive faxes and electronic mail. The biggest obstacle: getting device manufacturers to go along with SunDisk's size. The company says it's lining up support from makers of cameras, personal digital assistants, pagers, cellular phones, and cable-TV set-top boxes. Also planned: a $15 adapter that plugs into the larger PCMCIA card slot on personal computers, so data can be downloaded to a PC. SunDisk expects to ship CompactFlash in volume next spring.EDITED BY CATHERINE ARNST

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