Many of us slightly older folk will still remember the humble floppy disk which was the computing industries first real mobile storage media for the mainstream user and when first introduced was an ideal way of transferring data across computers, as long as you did not mind formatting the disk or re-writing it a number of times because of corruption on the first few attempts.

Also the USB 1.0 format was relatively new back in the day, devices that took advantage of the technology were relatively thin on the ground so if you were really lucky you did not have to get involved with larger files that often required spanning across many disks which was even more fraught with frustrastion.

But as files grew larger the floppy simply did not make the grade, but as time passed the CD writer came of age which could hold a hefty 500mb of data, still a little more than most people required and media was originally quite dear as well.

Fortunately the USB (universal serial bus) standard was rapidly gaining ground and it was not long before a new breed of mobile storage hit the market which was of course the humble memory stick also affectionately called a thumb drive. These simple plug an play devices could hold a heady 2,4,6 or even 8mb of data (ok don’t laugh) and data transfer speeds of 12mbps which although slow by modern standards was in fact blisteringly fast back then.

The computer repair and IT industries where some of the first serious adopters of pen drives primarily due to the fact that system tools could be easily carried on a flash drive and with the larger capacities reduced the need to carry around a number of CD disks used for diagnostics or computer maintenance utilities.

Increased capacities then drove the need for higher data transfer speeds and it was not long before USB 2.0 and then Hi-speed USB appeared and filled the need for speed

There was of course a lot of confusion between USB 2 and Hi speed USB at the time, which could transfer data at an astonishing 480mbps per second but a lot of early adopters were left more than a tad upset as industry often sold devices and PCI cards as USB 2.0 but in reality they were only USB 2.0 compliant and still had a much slower transfer speed.

All of that seems lost in the past know as the standard has emerged and is widely accepted by many as the de facto transfer protocol although the firewire camp would disagree but as technology matures time will tell.

The humble and originally very expensive thumb drive really took the market by storm and capacities rose to become greater than some people still have on their old computers, and it is now estimated than in excess of 150 million flash drives will be sold a year which of course is only the tip of the iceberg when you consider the estimated 6 billion plus USB interfaced devices in circulation which is growing at a rate of 2 billion per year.

Increases in drive capacities has raised a number of issues across many industry sectors including the data recovery industry, which has had to evolve new USB memory recovery techniques for recovering data from these flash based devices.

It is so easy to transfer and store data on these devices that many users are really taking them for granted and not saving their data elsewhere, which is all well and good until your drive breaks or gets damaged, or perhaps the memory controller fails.

Some Data recovery companies have of course stepped up the mark and the pen drive data recovery industry is now alive and well.

Another issue these devices have highlighted is the need for security as sensitive data (business or personal) can be quickly and easily stolen from the source. Technology has answered the problem and secure pen drives are now available and manufacturing giant Fujitsu has continued its innovation in security with the invention of a smart USB drives which even have the ability to auto erase data on a USB memory device.

As it seems with all technology every development brings us even greater speed and the new USB 3.0 standard is no exception promising data transfer speed 10x greater than current specs which will give us transfer speeds around 5Gbps.

This very fast transfer speed may of course signal the end of the older firewire standard which has been falling behind more recently.

The USB 3.0 standard has now been rolled out and accepted by most mainstream technology players but it may be still be some months before we see any consumer based products or reasonably priced motherboards supporting this latest standard.

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