Would you like some Flash drives with that, sir?

Posted on October 8, 2005 
Filed Under Uncategorized


“What’s your personal computer, anyways?” says computing pioneer Bill Joy. “Your personal computer should be something that’s always on your person.”

Flash Drives Make Any Computer ‘Personal’
By BRIAN BERGSTEIN, AP Technology Writer

Students at Eastside Preparatory School in Kirkland, Wash., are getting class materials in a new way this year: on a tiny flash-memory drive that plugs into a computer’s USB port.

Small enough to wear on a necklace, this “digital backpack” can hold textbooks, novels, plays, study aids, the dictionary, graphing-calculator software — almost anything, really.

Falling prices in computer memory have made these little flash drives — also called pen, thumb or key drives — into enormously powerful tools that are on the verge of changing the concept of “personal” computing.

With a gigabyte of flash memory now available for less than $100, these inexpensive digital storehouses can hold not just important data but also entire software programs. The information they carry can be encrypted and accessed speedily, a benefit of faster microprocessors.

What this all means is that computer users are no longer at the mercy of the machine that happens to be nearby. Everything we need to interact with computers — even down to the appearance of our home PC’s desktop — can be carried with us and used on almost any computer.

A few years ago Jay Elliot was looking for a way to help doctors move medical information securely and decided that flash memory — which has no moving parts, unlike hard-disk storage — was the perfect solution.

But as memory prices kept falling, he realized there was room for more than just data. So he invented Migo, software that lets removable storage devices such as USB drives and iPods essentially function as portable computers.

Plug a Migo-enabled device into a computer and enter your password, and a secure session launches in which you can send and receive e-mail and work on documents, with the background desktop and icons from your own PC rather than the ones on the host computer.

When you’re done and remove the drive, all traces of what you did are removed from that computer. The next time you plug the drive into your home computer, data on each are synchronized.

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