flash memory

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flash memory

[¦flash ′mem·rē]
(computer science)
A type of electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM). While EPROM is reprogrammed bit-by-bit, flash memory is reprogrammed in blocks, making it faster. It is nonvolatile.

flash memory

flash memory

(1) See also Flash (multimedia authoring and playback system).

(2) The most popular non-volatile, rewritable memory chip. Extremely durable, flash memory is used in just about every electronic device, including USB drives, cameras, iPods, smartphones, tablets, computers and servers.

Erase in a Flash!
Evolving from the EEPROM chip, flash was invented by Toshiba in the mid-1980s and named after its ability to erase a block of a data "in a flash." Ironically, this block erasing is its least desired feature and one the industry would dearly love to eliminate (see future memory chips). For more about the flash cell architecture, see EEPROM.

NOR flash is like RAM, while NAND is like a hard drive. For example, in a digital camera, an internal NOR chip holds the software, while the removable memory cards are composed of NAND chips. Before any writing can take place, both NOR and NAND cells must be erased in large blocks, typically 128KB in size. See logic gate.

NOR for Software
First delivered by Intel in 1988, the NOR "linear flash" interface supports one-byte random access, which means a program's instructions stored in NOR flash are copied out and executed the same way computers have fetched instructions from main memory for decades. See memory.

NAND for Storage
One year after the first NOR chips, Toshiba developed the less costly NAND flash, which has denser cells and faster erasing and writing than NOR. A "flash translation layer" makes NAND flash look like a disk drive to the operating system (see FTL). All flash memory eventually wears out, but in practice, most users will have many years of service (see SSD write cycle). See MLC, charge trap flash, USB drive, memory card, solid state drive, flash BIOS and early memories.

From Spinning Platters to Flash
Slowly but surely, flash-based solid state drives (SSDs) are replacing the computer's hard disks for storage. Not only are SSDs faster, there is no read/write head to accidentally scratch a platter's surface (see head crash). See solid state drive.

USB Drives "Are" Flash Memory
The ubiquitous USB drives are not much more than a NAND flash memory chip.

Memory Cards Are the Camera's "Film"
Flash-based memory cards are used in all modern cameras and camcorders. This is an SD Card, which is the most popular (see memory card).

Disk Pack Storage - 1970s
The 16GB SD Card in the camera photo above holds eight times more storage than all the disk drives combined in this room full of ICL computers (SD Cards can hold 512GB and more these days). See disk pack. (Images courtesy of The National Museum of Computing, Milton Keynes, U.K., www.tnmoc.org)

Flash For Sale
This 2014 Micro Center ad highlighted the flash memory products people use every day. Class 10 SD Cards means a minimum of 10 MBytes/sec write speed for HD video recording. See SD Card classes. (Image courtesy of Micro Center, www.microcenter.com)
References in periodicals archive ?
Both the ATA Flash Disk Controller and the CompactFlash Card Controller are also available in a 100-pin TQFP package.
SST's ATA Flash Disk Controller can recognize up to five external flash memory devices, up to 1 Gigabit density each, to create as large as a 640 MByte flash drive.
Users can simultaneously read/write or transfer data to as many as four PC Card hard drives or four ATA Flash, or any combination of four flash media.
Lexar Media offers commercial and industrial temperature-range ATA flash memory controllers for many of today's digital devices including network equipment, personal computers, PDAs, digital cameras, cell phones, video recorders and portable music players.
Viking is licensing and integrating Lexar Media's ATA flash controller technology into its flash-based industrial and consumer CompactFlash, PC Card and IDE product lines.
We appreciate Dane-Elec's commitment to our ATA flash controller product line," said Bob Leibowitz, Lexar Media's vice president, OEM business segment.
Other Flash products include Flash Drives ranging in capacity from 32Mbytes-1Gbyte, Flash Disk Modules ranging in capacity from 32Mbytes-1Gbyte, ATA Flash Cards ranging in capacity from 32Mbytes-1Gbyte, Compact Flash Cards ranging from 8Mbytes-320Mbytes capacities, Linear Flash Cards from 512Kbytes-64Mbytes, and also Linear Flash Modules ranging in density from 2 Mbytes-128Mbytes.
Standard PC Card hard drives and ATA Flash cards can be added and removed from the Pocket UDD like any removable media.
NASDAQ:SSTI), a leader in flash memory technology, today announced a new stand-alone, high-performance ATA Flash Disk Controller that boasts a sustained write speed of up to 4 MBytes/sec.
Through patented technology and an extensive design library, SiliconTech designers offer state-of-the-art custom and industry-standard Linear and ATA Flash, SRAM, and DRAM products in a wide variety of form factors.
Addonics Technologies today introduced an IDE interface drive solution with a PC Card (PCMCIA) slot that reads/writes to all of today's popular Flash media formats including ATA Flash and PC Card hard drive.