A Short History of USB Flash Drives


Like so many technological innovations, USB flash drives have improved and developed at an enormous pace, so much so that their earliest versions already seem like relics from the ancient past.  Looking over the brief history of these devices provides a strong hint at the advances that the next decade will surely bring.

So how did USB flash drives begin?  Flash memory was developed in the mid ‘80s, becoming slowly but steadily more widespread over the next decade and a half.  Meanwhile, USB ports—allowing computers and other devices to connect easily—were developed in 1994.  The first USB flash drives (the acronym stands for Universal Serial Bus) arrived on the market in 2000, with competing devices offered by IBM and Singapore’s Trek Technology.  The earliest USB flash drives contained only 8 MB capacity, but this was enough to make them an attractive alternative to the considerably smaller floppy disks of the day.  Since then, USB flash drives have grown to as large as 256 GB in storage space, while models of 4, 8, and 16 GBs have become inexpensive and readily available—all while retaining the tiny physical dimensions that have made them such convenient accessories.  Consumers can now buy custom USB drives that contain a host of personalized features.

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  • Greg Sachs