Many of us will still remember the old original 5 1/4 inch floppy disk which was a sheet of very, very thin plastic holding a magnetic media that the data was stored on; the capacity was a massive 360 K. which was sufficient to hold a full operating system in those days (who says Windows Vista isn't bloatware) and considering that most home computers didn't have a hard disc in those days we would use one to boot our computers up and then others loaded the programmes we were going to use. The problem was was that the disc was extremely fragile and a bit of dust could ruin it completely so the next major advance was the 3 1/2 inch floppy in which the magnetic media was surrounded by a plastic case which was far more robust and the storage capacity increased to a mind boggling 1.44 MB which could handle even the most sophisticated programs of the era, provided that one had sufficient patience to insert 20 odd of them one after the other, and provided that none of them had been contaminated with a piece of grit which would ruin the entire process! They had a however one major advantage; they were mass produced and very, very cheap so they quickly became the standard.
The ubiquitous Zip Drive then made its appearance with huge storage capacities which eventually went up to 750 MB but the problem was that they were pretty expensive but they may well have caught on in time if it was not for the fact that the compact disc, and then rewritable compact disc decided to make its appearance.
The CD was a very popular medium, very cheap and reliable and it didn't take up a great deal of space but the big drawback was that the title ' rewritable ' was a misnomer. Data could be added to a rewritable CD but once on there it could not be changed and the CD could not be overwritten with new data. So finally along came the memory stick!
The memory stick first made its appearance as far back as 1998 when Sony invented a tiny compact memory system which was designed initially for cameras and other small portable devices. Small enough to be fitted comfortably into a top pocket on a jacket without causing a visible bulge it was a huge advance on previous systems but for the computer user it had one major defect; the interface had many different formats and it was necessary to buy all sorts of converters in order to connect one to a PC. The next logical development was to include a USB connector which meant that it could be connected to pretty well every modern computer on the planet, so we now have a means of transferring rewritable data from one computer to another, which will hold at the moment about 16 GB of data, and which would fit very easily into a standard A12 envelope without taking the weight over the limit for the lowest cost postage stamp. Scary or exciting, depending upon your point of view!