USB flash drives have been around for decades under several different names. Pen drives, flash drives, USB drives, solid-state drives…it’s a small wonder we recognize so many different titles for the same simple object.
At their core, all flash drives are the same: they have a USB plug and a small chip that acts like a hard drive, only there’s nothing that spins, so they don’t go bad the way hard drives do. They started small, but in the past few years they’ve gone up geometrically in size; the latest flash drives are measured in three digits worth of gigabytes – nothing to sneeze at.
The first generation of flash drives could be used to take a document from one computer to another without having to rely on big, bulky ‘stiffy’ disks. Today’s flash drives can hold an entire system setup – you can literally buy flash drives that you can boot to, bringing your entire system with you onto any computer you happen to plug it into.
That’s not boring – that’s exciting. It’s what Google is trying to do with the Chrome OS (turn any computer into YOUR computer by putting everything in the cloud) except we’re doing it with flash drives.
But that’s not the only thing that has been cool-ified about flash drives in the past few years. Of course, it’s all the rage now to disguise your flash drives as all kinds of other novelty kitsch, from Betty Boop to a generic heart-shaped blob. The coolest, though, are the toys that look nothing like flash drives. You can get Transformers that really transform – and hold flash drives. You can get flash drives that look like Zippo lighters, Hello Kitty, and even mice – both kinds.
What’s more, you can even get Flash drives that come pre-loaded with all kinds of crazy software or other information on them. As just one example, one particularly cool product is a flash drive with a huge directory of Internet Radio and Internet TV stations on it – upwards of ten thousand media channels ready for viewing.
Whether you’re considering the size, the shape, or the contents, today’s custom USB flash drives are a far cry from the boring sticks of yesteryear. We’re excited to see what tomorrow will bring to this staple product of the information age.