Mini memory sticks

I still own and use Apple’s first iPod Shuffle (the long, white one that holds 240 songs or a gigabyte of data). I find it extremely convenient for shuffling files (not music) between machines, especially if there’s no network available or the data is too big for email. I thought at the time that for $99, they were tantalizingly close to the give-away-the-device price-point, where you would, for example, buy a music album that came on the iPod Shuffle, not on CD.

More interestingly, non-music-playing memory sticks that sold for $30 or $40 a few years ago were likewise almost at the throw-away-device stage: toss some data on it, flip it to the recipient, and walk away. No need to get the device back. But the price would have to drop to under $10 to make that truly viable.

I wouldn’t be writing this if it hadn’t happened.

Sure, you can buy a 1GB Kingston Data Traveler for $11, or the 2GB version for $20, but they’ve been outdone.

200705162143A co-worker has been making the rounds, showing off his latest cool gadget: a tiny USB memory stick, capable of storing 2GB of data. The Kingmax Super Stick is literally smaller than a paperclip, consisting of just the USB connector and the memory chip. And it’s only $18.

The 1GB version? $9.

Nine bucks for a gigabyte of data, in a tiny, begging-to-be-tossed-in-the-wash device.

I’ve been enamored of the concept of disposable storage devices ever since I read my first cyberpunk novels some 15-plus years ago, in particular the Shadowrun series of novels (especially the ones by the late Nigel Findley).

The stories were filled with shadowy underground operatives working the Matrix (think body-modded hackers on a future Internet). Payment for services rendered wasn’t cash (that was illegal) or credit cards (that left a data trail), but small, disposable devices keyed with a set amount of money. The recipient plugged the device into a system, punched a few keys, and his bank account grew appropriately.

With these miniscule drives steadily shrinking in size and price for the last few years, I’ve been impatiently waiting for the day when disposable storage devices became a reality, and now that they’re here, I’m breathlessly waiting for someone to create a way for me to “pay” someone by giving them a coded memory stick.

Anyone want to make this a reality?

Note: Good luck finding copies of these books. They’re 15 years old, and an intersection of a sub-genre of a sub-genre of sci-fi and role-playing games. They didn’t have huge sales even in their heyday. If you’d really like to read one or two of these, Amazon sellers have (mostly used) copies. Your local well-stocked library may also do you well. There are also a couple of newer story-lines (e.g. Shadowrun Book #1: Born to Run), sort of a reboot of the series, if you will, but I haven’t read any of them.)