Compact Flash cards are bigger than most newer type of flash memory, but some people still use them as storage for digital cameras when they need huge amounts of storage. The biggest competitors for Compact Flash cards were the MiniCard and SmartMedia cards of the early 2000s. Compact Flash is one of the oldest forms of flash memory, though, pre-dating those cards, and was designed to plug into a CF slot. The original Compact Flash, known as CF 1, has been out for over 10 years.
The Compact Flash card can offer up larger amounts of storage than the other media storage cards of its generation because it’s less like a flash card and more like the PCMCIA-ATA found in notebook computers. This makes it more like a computer slot for many different kinds of devices, not just flash memory storage.
Many devices use CF slots, like modems, GPS devices, barcode readers, digital cameras, Wi-Fi adapters and Ethernet cards. Like flash storage, the Compact Flash card offers non-volatile memory—memory that remains even when the power is switched off. A Compact Flash drive contains CF Microdrives, which are simply very small hard drives built onto the card. These greatly expand the storage capacity of the card, even over 12 gig in a single card.
CF is open standard much like Secure Digital cards (SD cards) that are huge sellers today. Because it’s open source technology, development isn’t limited and anyone with the knowledge to do so can try to enhance the technology. So many devices are manufactured that can use a Compact Flash slot. The Compact Flash cards is actually more like a computer card than a flash card, and has that advantage over the SD card. While the SD’s standard technology is SDIO and allowed peripheral devices to be developed that will fit into that slot, the CF still has a wide advantage. With its interface of the standard PCMCIA, many already make devices that are compatible.
In fact, that standard format already used in notebook computers seems to be the Compact Flash cards biggest asset. Unlike other companies who constantly upgrade their flash drives to be smaller, faster and hold more storage, the Compact Flash already has several advantages because so many other devices are already compatible, and new devices are created all the time that are compatible with its already commonly used format.