Flash memory

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Flash memory is a non-volatile computer storage chip that can be electrically erased and reprogrammed. It is primarily used in memory cards, USB flash drives, MP3 players and solid-state drives for general storage and transfer of data between computers and other digital products. It is a specific type of EEPROM (electrically erasable programmable read-only memory) that is erased and programmed in large blocks; in early flash the entire chip had to be erased at once. Flash memory costs far less than byte-programmable EEPROM and therefore has become the dominant technology wherever a significant amount of non-volatile, solid state storage is needed. Example applications include PDAs (personal digital assistants), laptop computers, digital audio players, digital cameras and mobile phones. It has also gained popularity in console video game hardware, where it is often used instead of EEPROMs or battery-powered static RAM (SRAM) for game save data.

Flash memory is non-volatile, meaning no power is needed to maintain the information stored in the chip. In addition, flash memory offers fast read access times (although not as fast as volatile DRAM memory used for main memory in PCs) and better kinetic shock resistance than hard disks. These characteristics explain the popularity of flash memory in portable devices. Another feature of flash memory is that when packaged in a "memory card," it is extremely durable, being able to withstand intense pressure, extremes of temperature, and even immersion in water.[1]

Although technically a type of EEPROM, the term "EEPROM" is generally used to refer specifically to non-flash EEPROM which is erasable in small blocks, typically bytes. Because erase cycles are slow, the large block sizes used in flash memory erasing give it a significant speed advantage over old-style EEPROM when writing large amounts of data.[citation needed]


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