Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Moving Data -- Genealogist's View of Memory Cards (CF) card into a Nikon D200 Photo © by Motorrad67/Permission by Attribution

Usually when we want to give an example of obsolescence, we refer to 8 Track Tapes or Betamax. This example is aging rapidly, probably no one under the age of thirty or so has ever seen or heard an 8 Track Tape or seen a Betamax tape player. A more up-to-date example, although more obscure, is the rapid evolution of memory storage cards for cameras and portable computers. Here is a list of some of the types of small digital card storage media that have been sold over the past few years and see which ones you recognize:

Miniature Card
PC Card Type I (PCMCIA Card)
Memory Stick
xD-Picture Card
Secure Digital/MultiMedia Cards

The ones marked in red are still generally available, the others have gone out of style and are difficult to find and use. Why does a genealogist care? In a recent seminar the presenter asked the 300 people present how many had digital cameras. Almost everyone raised their hand. Did you know that the cards listed above are specific to certain brands of digital cameras and that the different cards are not interchangeable?

Just so you know, here is the list with the camera manufacturer and the name commonly used for the card:

Miniature Card -- Philips Velo 500 and CISCO 800 and 1700 used Miniature Card
SmartMedia -- Toshiba, no longer manufactured, used by Olympus and Fuji
PC Card Type I (PCMCIA Card) -- Some portable computers
ExpressCard -- Used by many computer manufacturers
Memory Stick -- Sony only
xD-Picture Card -- Olympus and Fuji only
CompactFlash (CF) -- Most common and used on most high-end digital cameras
MicroDrive (MD)v-- Type II CompactFlash body with IBM MicroDrive
Secure Digital/MultiMedia Cards (SD)-- very common in smaller cameras, SD cards have write protect

Now are you thoroughly confused? Well, what happens in the real world is that when you purchase a digital camera and/or a laptop computer, you have essentially bought into one (or more) of these storage card formats. If the storage card goes out of date and is no longer manufactured, then you are out of luck in buying new cards or finding a reader that will read the contents of the card. For example, the SmartMedia card is no longer manufactured and is essentially dead.

To make matters more confusing, some cameras have built-in memory storage which is used before any photos are stored on the memory card. You may have some photos in the camera and others on the card.  You need to carefully read the instructions that come with your camera or computer about the storage card use and be aware of the type of card, and its limitations, that your camera or laptop uses.

Here are three rules to avoid long term problems with these storage devices:

1. Never use these types of cards for long term storage of anything, photos or documents included. If you want to preserve your photos or other data, move them to your computer and then to another type of storage device such as an external hard drive or USB FlashDrive. 

2. Always download your photos to your computer and then to another storage device. Do not leave photos in your camera's memory or on a card in the camera.

3. Watch the market. Be aware of which cards are currently being sold and make sure you can still purchase a card for your camera. If your device manufacturer changes the card in newer machines, consider upgrading your camera or computer. 

I think this area deserves another post. So stay tuned for more on this subject.

1 comment:

  1. I have a early Sony digital camera, and I would be embarrassed to reveal the price I paid. Let's just say that I was an early adapter in this case. I remember drawing a crowd at the local Family History Center while I took photos of the microfilm screen. No on had ever seen that done before. The type of memory card the camera uses, plain old "memory stick" are not available. I cannot buy new cards for my camera, which, btw, works fine, but not a resolutions generally available at 1/10 the price I paid now. Oh, I almost told what I paid.