Storage technology has been improving ever since the first device that could store digital data, a magnetic tape, was invented back in 1928. The first hard disk was created back in 1956, with IBM’s 350 Disk Storage Unity invented by Reynold Johnson. This drive had a whopping total capacity of 3.75 megabytes!
At the time, computers such as RAMAC (which stood for “random access method of accounting and control”) that used the IBM 350 were physically enormous, taking entire rooms dedicated only to their operation, so it was practically impossible to carry any data around with you. That began to change in the 1960s when Philips introduced the first compact audio cassette in 1963. Though it was originally designed as an audio cassette for dictation machines, it rose in popularity when it began to be used as a method for distributing prerecorded music.
But perhaps the most memorable portable storage device was the Floppy Disk. Developed by (again) IBM in 1971, the floppy disk started as an inexpensive project to load microcode into the System/370 mainframes. IBM probably didn’t know it at the time, but it had just invented what could easily a revolutionary data storage device. It’s later iterations improved in data capacity and size of the disk, as the old 8” version would prove to be too big for personal computers.
Ever since the advent of the floppy disk, both disk drives and portable storage devices have improved. The most recent disk drive solution, the SSD, departed from the “mechanical” forms of storing data that had been used by hard disk drives since the 1960s in order to establish higher transfer rates. One of the advantages of SSD over traditional hard disk drives was the lack of moving parts that could easily break or malfunction, thereby increasing the durability of the drive. Seek time and latency on accessing data were also drastically reduced, so users could take advantage of much faster boot times.
But storage technology has also grown ever more portable, from floppy disks to USB flash drives and SD cards. The SD card is actually a standard created by the SD Association to serve as a guideline for the industry to follow when creating memory cards. SD memory cards come in a variety of storage capacities, speed classes, and three different physical sizes: SD, miniSD, and microSD.
With so many options to choose from, it’s important to understand which format works best with your device – be it a smartphone, a digital camera, or something else. The most common SD card you will find is the SDHC, which will hold up to 32gb of data. Current cards can store up to 2TB using the SDXC standard, but these also require an SDXC compatible device in order to function since they are not backwards compatible with the older standards.
SSD vs SD
At this point, you might be wondering: What should I use to store my data on? The answer is: it depends. An SD card is usually inexpensive and small. It’s easy to use in transferring data from one place to another But SD cards are slow. The class 10 SDXC 133x speed can transfer data at the rates of 10 to 12 MBps (megabytes per second) while SSD drives can go up to 1.2 GBps (gigabytes per second). That’s a 100x faster rate, but both technologies have different applications. SSDs, while considerably faster than SD cards, are much more expensive per gigabyte of capacity and their 2.5” size makes using them with any device other than your computer or notebook a bit unpractical. A terabyte SSD can come with a $300 price tag while a 256GB SD can ring in at closer to $140. When choosing between one or the other, you need to always consider what you are going to use them for. If what you need is a way to transfer your data from device to device, an SD card will do the trick. If you’re looking for a way to increase data transfer rates and boot time on your main computer, then SSD is the way to go. If possible, mixing up the two of them for different uses will give you the best of both worlds.