PCMCIA Cards, a Misnomer Explained

Original HTML document with live links available at: http://www.synchrotech.com/support/ratoc-scsi-firewire-usb-fr1sx-u2scx-lvd-faq-supplement.html Many people ask for PCMCIA Cards, not knowing that PCMCIA is really just an acronym for Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (formerly Personal Computer Memory Card Industry Association). The PCMCIA is the standards body for several device standards including ExpressCard, PC Card, PC CardBus, and at one time the Miniature Card and SmartMedia (when the SSFDA folded) standards as well. When people mistakenly ask for PCMCIA Cards, what they really mean are PC Cards. There is no such thing as a "PCMCIA Card" -- Greg Barr, PCMCIA Public Relations Coordinator The term "PC Card" refers to the credit card-size peripherals that add memory, mass storage, and I/O capabilities to computers in a rugged, compact form factor. The term "PCMCIA" (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) refers to the non-profit trade association and standards body that promotes PC Card and ExpressCard technology by defining technical standards and educating the market. In the past, cards were known as "PCMCIA Cards," but the industry now refers to products based on the technology as "PC Cards," "PC Card Hosts" and "PC Card Software," and refers only to the association as PCMCIA. -- PCMCIA FAQ www.pcmcia.org/faq.htm#terms As seen in the quotes, the hardware people sometimes mistakenly refer to as PCMCIA Cards, is correctly called PC Card when referring to the 16-bit legacy variety, and PC CardBus when referring to the 32-bit variety. When the quote mentions cards were known as PCMCIA cards in the past, this wasn't because they were actually named that by the standards body, it was due to common usage by end users. Before the generalized hardware name PC Card was coined for these devices, the industry referred to them as memory cards, hence the "memory card" portion of the PCMCIA acronym. When I/O cards were standardized in the PC Card form factor, PCMCIA employed the name PC Card. On the other hand, it is fine to refer to these devices with the industry acronym before the hardware names: PCMCIA PC Cards or PCMCIA PC CardBus Cards. PCMCIA PC Cards are often categorized by PCMCIA PC Card Type I, PCMCIA PC Card Type II or PCMCIA PC Card Type III (85.6 x 54.0 x 3.3 or 5.0 or 10.5mm thick) form factors. All the Type designation indicates is the thickness (depth) of the card. All PCMCIA PC Cards feature a standard 68-pin parallel interface to the host system. Notebook computers can feature PCMCIA PC Card or PCMCIA PC CardBus slots, although newer models feature PCMCIA ExpressCard slots. Adding PC Card support to desktop computers typically requires a host adapter, called a PCMCIA PC Card reader .

PCMCIA ATA FLASH PC CARDS
Standard ATA Flash Cards Synchrotech ATA Flash PC Cards Several lines of general purpose ATA Flash cards

PCMCIA LINEAR FLASH PC CARDS
Standard Linear Flash PC Cards Synchrotech ATA Flash PC Cards PCMCIA Linear Flash PC Cards including AMD Series C, AMD Series D, and Intel Series II

PCMCIA PC Card Categories
Typically PCMCIA PC Cards are categorized by their purpose. PCMCIA PC Card memory devices or PCMCIA PC Card/PC CardBus I/O devices.

PCMCIA PC Card Memory
PCMCIA SRAM PC Card Memory Devices The first PCMCIA PC Card memory types were Linear Flash and SRAM. PCMCIA SRAM PC Cards are Static-RAM. SRAM cards maintain the charge on their Static Random Access Memory banks with either a replaceable or rechargeable built-in battery. These memory types offer powerful flexibility and reasonable speed, but present complexity in their hardware driver and software interfaces. Hence, very few operating systems support PCMCIA SRAM PC Cards natively and software packages that do are expensive. Furthermore, the memory employed by these card is expensive and neither technology offers capacities required by modern portable devices. PCMCIA SRAM PC Cards is still used in vertical market devices; including flight recorders, GPS devices, medical monitoring systems, and many others. SRAM PCMCIA Memory PC Cards Fixed Battery SRS Series PCMCIA SRAM PC Cards Memory Card Devices FAQ PCMCIA Linear Flash PC Card Memory Devices The first PCMCIA PC Card memory types were Linear Flash and SRAM. PCMCIA Linear Flash PC Cards utilizes NOR memory. These memory types offer powerful flexibility and reasonable speed, but present complexity in their hardware driver and software interfaces. Hence, very few operating systems support PCMCIA Linear Flash PC Cards natively and software packages that do are expensive. Furthermore, the memory employed by these card is expensive and neither technology offers capacities required by modern portable devices. PCMCIA Linear Flash PC Cards are still used in vertical market devices; including farm combines, GPS devices, medical monitoring systems, and many others. Linear Flash PCMCIA Memory PC Cards Home PCMCIA Linear Flash PC Cards Memory Card Devices FAQ PCMCIA ATA Flash PC Card Memory Devices Very early PCMCIA ATA Flash PC Cards used NOR style memory like that in PCMCIA Linear Flash PC Cards, but then switched to NAND. Some NOR based cards required 5.0V and were available in smaller capacities. NAND based cards are 3.3/5.0V and come in sizes much larger than those available in Linear Flash Cards. As NAND densities and die sizes have shrank over the years, ATA Flash PC Cards' capacities have grown considerably from sizes comparable to Linear Flash and SRAM to multigigabyte capacities today. Synchrotech currently offers PCMCIA ATA Flash PC Cards as large as 16GB. PCMCIA ATA Flash PC Cards Home PCMCIA Linear Flash PC Cards Memory Card Devices FAQ PCMCIA PC CardBus Panasonic P2 Memory Devices Panasonic's propriety P2 cards are essentially a RAID of internal SD Cards bridged to a 32-bit PC CardBus interface. Because P2 cards use a RAID configuration channeled through CardBus' wider and faster interface than 16-bit legacy PC Card, they

are very fast in comparison to other PCMCIA PC Card memory applications.

PCMCIA SRAM PC CARDS
Standard ATA Flash Cards Synchrotech ATA Flash PC Cards Several lines of general purpose ATA Flash cards

PC CARDBUS TO ULTRA-SCSI
Ratoc PC CardBus to Ultra SCSI Adapters Utilize Ultra SCSI devices with PCMCIA CardBus PC Card equipped computers running Linux, Mac OS, or The Windows

PCMCIA PC Card and PC CardBus I/O Devices and Host Adapters
Outside of PCMCIA PC Card memory devices, PC Cards exist for a wide variety of purposes. Most serve as host adapters, which add or augment the abilities of the computer they are being used with. For many applications, 16-bit legacy PCMCIA PC Cards are sufficient. For example, RS-232 adapters or PC Card to CompactFlash adapters. To provide 32-bit and/or high performance busses, PC CardBus host adapters allow for useful applications including Ethernet or FireWire. 16-bit PC Card I/O Host Adapters add new functionality to a PC Card or CardBus equipped computer PCMCIA Memory Cards Media Adapters PCMCIA PC Card Fax-Modems PCMCIA PC Card to Serial I/O PCMCIA PC Card to PC/SC Smart Card Adapter PCMCIA PC Card to X.25 and WAN Adapters 32-bit PC CardBus I/O Host Adapters add new functionality to a CardBus equipped computer PCMCIA Memory Cards Media Adapters PCMCIA PC CardBus to Ethernet PCMCIA PC CardBus to FireWire PC CardBus to IEEE 1284 Parallel Port Host Adapter PCMCIA PC CardBus to SATA (Serial ATA) PCMCIA PC CardBus to SCSI PCMCIA PC CardBus to USB 2.0 PC CardBus to IEEE 1284 Parallel Port Host Adapter

PCMCIA ExpressCard Devices
Like the PC Card standards it is replacing, PCMCIA ExpressCards serve a wide variety of functions on modern computers. See our ExpressCard FAQ for ExpressCard 34 and ExpressCard 54 Cards for in depth information on PCMCIA ExpressCard technology. See our extensive ExpressCard product lineup for examples of ExpressCard proliferation.

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