Usb Keychain Drive

Also called USB stick or FlashDrive?. A device the size of a thumb, so you can wear it on a keychain or put it into your pocket. It consists, mainly, of anywhere from 32 megs to 2 gigs of NAND Flash RAM and a USB connector. You plug one into your USB port and can then use it as just another drive.

This is immensely practical already, as it is more portable (smaller, more practical form factor), more reliable (no moving parts) and much faster than floppy disks. It also gives you two to three orders of magnitude more storage space than a floppy disk. Wasn't it AlanKay who said something to the effect that when you have a large enough change in quantity, it enables a jump in quality, i.e. something completely different (quote, anybody?) I don't have the quote handy, but I'm pretty sure it was Karl Marx. -- AndrewMcGuinness. (I heard it was CarlSagan talking about Cars and Spaceships.) Following this logic the jump in speed and storage space, the UsbKeychainDrive is an open invitation to us, as programmers, to find new applications for the genre "portable storage space" which were not possible with floppy disks.

"And now for something completely different" -- John Cleese, Monty Python's Flying Circus.

See ThumbDriveUses
The price

As with any technology, the highest-end version carries a premium. Right now (late 2003), the price curve looks about like this (all prices in $US from, but the general idea is universal)

Prices as of 2003:
   2GB $600 $300/GB
   1GB $300 $300/GB
 512MB $135 $275/GB
 256MB $80  $320/GB
 128MB $44  $352/GB
  64MB $30  $480/GB
  32MB $20  $640/GB
So, on paper at least, the best value is about two steps down from the top. This pattern is true for most consumer computer hardware, by the way.

Sep04 1GB drive available for under U$150, but how reliable are these things? Are they expected to last at least a year?

Prices as of 20080429:
  16GB $60  3.75/GB
   8GB $30  3.75/GB
   4GB $16  4.00/GB
   2GB $10  5.00/GB
   1GB $7   7.00/GB
In 5 years the price has declined for the 2GB drive from $600 to $10, or 1/60th the 2003 price.

Prices as of 20120201 (rounded):
  64GB $63  0.99/GB
  32GB $33  1.03/GB
  16GB $15  0.94/GB
   8GB $8   1.00/GB
   4GB $5   1.25/GB
   2GB $6   3.00/GB
   1GB $5   5.00/GB
From 2008 to 2012, the price has declined for the 16GB drive from $60 to $15, or 1/4th the 2008 price.

Installation and removal

On a Macintosh or modern version of Windows (Win2K, XP, etc.; many models come with drivers for Win98/ME in the package), you just plug the device into a free USB port (even while the computer is running) and you are all set. On Windows 2000, you should 'unmount' the drive by clicking on the "removable device" tray icon before removing, otherwise the last write you made may not be flushed to the device.

Many recent releases of Linux (for example, Fedora Core 1 and the latest Suse) work the same way; for older versions, you have to make sure some the module usb-storage is loaded, and can then normally mount and unmount the drive, which is generally recognized as a SCSI device.

Apparently, UsbKeychainDrives have been determined to be a security risk by many companies, at some it is reportedly a firing offense to be in possession of one while in the office. (Lots of sensitive information, apparently, can be stuffed in a gigabyte.... :)

I assume that CDs, floppies and encryption are similarly outlawed... but I'm probably wrong. -- WilliamUnderwood

My organization seemingly wants to ban USB sticks, but due to budget cutbacks, they don't have staff to evaluate exceptions to the rule as they come along. Plus, executives love them, and they usually call the shots. Battles between gizmo and technology-loving executives and the security staff can be fierce.
I work for myself, so it is perfectly legal for me to use any and all storage devices for my own stuff. -- DonaldNoyes.20080429.2249.m05

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