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Published: Saturday, 10/16/2004

Pick a card and remember it

As people rely on a wider range of digital devices for work and fun, finding ways to move files from one device to another is becoming a big headache.

The digital file may be text for a business or school report, a graphic to illustrate the report, a family picture, music, or a video clip.

The move may involve any combination of digital devices:

Between a digital camera and a desktop computer, for instance, or a laptop and a Palm-type personal digital assistant (PDAs), a digital voice recorder and a PC, a camera-equipped mobile phone and a photo printer, a PC and a pocket audio player, a desktop and a laptop computer.

Many old standby bridge devices for moving files won t work. That old reliable 3.5-inch computer diskette, for instead, obviously won t fit into a PDA or a modern digital camera. With a capacity of just 1.44 megabytes (MBs), a diskette won t hold many high-resolution images, anyway.

Camera-equipped mobile phones don t have a CD burner. Some ultra-slim notebook computers have neither CD or diskette drive.

Several devices can that bridge the digital travel gap simply, reliably, and inexpensively.

One option includes secure digital (SD) cards, compact flash cards, and Memory Sticks. Another option is the USB (Universal Serial Device) flash drive, also called a keychain memory device.

Both use flash memory, a kind of memory that retains its data without a constant supply of electricity.

SD cards, for instance, are about the size of a postage stamp and as thick as a credit card. They fit into outlets in some PDAs, digital voice recorders, digital cameras, and audio and video gear. Many newer laptop and desktop computers have SD slots.

For those without a slot, add-on SD readers are available in stores and online for well under $50. They have a slot for an SD card, and connect to the computer via a USB plug.

Keychain memory devices are about the size of a man s thumb. Some have a little metal loop for people who want to use them as a keychain fob. On the other end is a cap. Remove it, and there s a USB connector for plugging into a computer.

Don t be fooled by the size of these devices. Both varieties are available in capacities that can hold more data than scores of 3.5-inch diskettes. The most popular sizes are 64 MB, 128 MB, 256 MB, and 512 MB.

My 256 MB keychain memory device, for instance, can carry almost as much data as 180 diskettes. That capacity is important for big graphics, music, and video files. It makes these devices wonderfully convenient for carrying files between office and home, and during travel.

Prices vary with manufacturer and retailer. Bargain hunters may find 128 MB devices for about $25 and 256 MB devices for under $50. They are very reliable, data can be copied and erased countless times, and the devices last for years.

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