SmartMedia From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A 32MB SmartMedia flash memory card (on keyboard for scale)
A 32MB SmartMedia flash memory card (on keyboard for scale)
A radiograph of SmartMedia card.
A radiograph of SmartMedia card.

SmartMedia is a flash memory card standard owned by Toshiba. It was launched in the summer of 1995 to compete with MiniCard, CompactFlash, and PC card formats. SmartMedia was initially named the Solid State Floppy Disk Card (SSFDC) and pitched as a successor to the floppy disk. Memory cards are now associated with digital cameras, digital audio players, PDAs, and other devices. A SmartMedia card consists of a single NAND flash EEPROM chip embedded in a thin plastic card (though some higher capacity cards contain multiple, linked chips). It was one of the smallest and the thinnest (0.76 mm) of the early memory cards, and managed to maintain a favorable cost ratio as compared to the others. It lacks a built-in controller, which kept the cost down. This feature later caused problems, since some older devices would require firmware updates to handle larger capacity cards.

Typically, a SmartMedia card was used as storage media for a portable device, in a form that can easily be removed for access by a PC. For example, pictures taken with a digital camera would be stored as image files on a SmartMedia card. A user could copy the images to his or her computer with a SmartMedia reader (typically a small box that connects via USB or some other serial connection). Modern computers, both laptops and desktops, will occasionally have SmartMedia slots built in. While dedicated SmartMedia readers have dropped off, readers that read multiple card types (such as 4 in 1, 10 in 1, etc) continue to include the format. Since these multi-card readers are becoming increasingly common, especially on new computers, the installed base of Smartmedia cards is still increasing and has never been larger as of 2006.

SmartMedia was popular in digital cameras, and reached its peak in about 2001 when it garnered nearly half of the digital camera market. It was backed especially by Fuji and Olympus, though the format was starting to have problems. Namely, cards larger then 128 MB were not available and the compact digital cameras were reaching a size where even SmartMedia were too big to be convienent. A further blow happened when Olympus switched to Secure Digital Cards, and it ceased to have major support after Olympus and Fuji both switched to xD. It did not find as much support in PDAs, mp3 players, or pagers as some formats (especially in North America and Europe), though there was still significant use.

SmartMedia cards larger than 128 MB have not been released, and some older devices cannot support cards larger than 32 MB without a firmware update (or at all in some cases), both of which contributed to their demise. There were, however, some rumors of a 256 MB card being planned. Technical specifications for the memory size were released, and the 256 MB cards were even advertised in some places.

Both Toshiba and Samsung still make SmartMedia cards to be used in already-existing devices (up to 128 MB), and rebadged versions are still offered for sale by a wide variety of memory card makers including Lexar and Sandisk. An advantage that remains over some other formats is the ability to use any capacity of SmartMedia card in a standard 3.5" floppy drive by using a FlashPath adapter for the format.

SmartMedia cards come in two formats, 5 V and 3.3 V (sometimes marked 3 V), named for their main supply voltages. The packaging is nearly identical, except for the reversed side of the mechanical orientation notched corner.

There is an oversized/external xD-Picture card to SmartMedia adapter, that allows xD cards to use an SM port (but does not fit entirely inside an SM slot). There is a limit on how big an xD card can be used in adapters (sometimes 128 MB or 256 MB), and the device is subject to the restrictions of the SmartMedia reader as well.


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