Memory Stick Micro (M2) was the smallest form factor of the Sony Memory Stick family. It was introduced as a joint venture with SanDisk in 2006 and is just one-quarter of the size of the Memory Stick Duo. Typical uses include PDAs and mobile phones.
Adaptors were available to allow Memory Stick Micro cards to be used in Memory Stick and Memory Stick Duo slots, and Sony produced an M2 to USB adaptor.
Cards were available from 64 MB to 16 GB capacities.
In 2009, Sony announced that Sony Ericsson phones would use microSD cards instead of Memory Stick Micro, and by 2011, the Memory Stick Micro was no longer available on the Sony UK website.
Mastering Quality Sound is a term used by the South Korean company Astell&Kern to describe 24-bit high-resolution audio files that use the FLAC format (a lossless compression format). Astell&Kern sell a range of high-end audio players that support a range of audio file types, including high-resolution FLAC files, and the players themselves incorporate microSD card slots.
Music files can be transferred from a computer to the player using microSD or microSDHC memory cards of up to 32 GB, or connecting via cable, but a small number of pre-recorded albums have been released on microSD cards marketed under the name MQS.
MQS microSD cards contains high-resolution audio files in FLAC format and these can be played back on many devices in addition to Astell&Kern’s players, although additional plugins or apps may sometimes be required on other devices. Astell&Kern products support 24-bit high-resolution audio with a sampling rate of up to 192 kHz (though the music on MQS microSD cards varies from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz depending on the source) and claim that this gives up to 6.5 times the level of detail of a conventional CD-quality audio file.
Pre-recorded music has already been released on microSD cards, both under SanDisk brands such as Gruvi and slotMusic, and also on generic microSD cards. These formats used MP3 files rather than the higher quality FLAC though.
SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) is a variant of Secure Digital offering higher capacity and speed, and was introduced in 2006 as version 2.0 of the SD specification.
Devices that support SDHC cards will still work with standard SD cards, but at slower speeds. However, older devices designed to work with standard SD cards (usually made before 2007) will not usually work with SDHC cards.
Standard SD cards are available up to 2 GB, whereas SDHC cards are able to offer up to 32 GB.
SDHC cards are rated for speed, with Class 2, 4, 6, and 10 available. The class number relates to the MB per second write speed, so a Class 10 card should offer a minimum of 10 MB/second. Some devices may specify a minimum card speed requirement.
The Tapwave Zodiac was a handheld game and entertainment console. It was launched in 2003 by Tapwave, reaching the UK in 2004, and ran a version of the Palm Operating System (which meant it also had PDA functionality).
Two models were available, the Tapwave 1 with 32MB, and the Tapwave 2 with 128MB. The Zodiac had two memory card slots, and could take either MultiMediaCards or Secure Digital cards. Games, music or photos could be loaded on either type, but SD cards were faster. The console had a built-in MP3 player, e-book reader, rumble pack and Bluetooth.
Despite good reviews and some noteworthy games titles, it suffered from strong competition from Nintendo’s DS system and Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP); this along with insufficient funding meant it was discontinued in 2005.
HitClips Discs were another attempt to market the HitClips format that was introduced by Tiger Electronics in 1999.
Like HitClips, the system was marketed at children, and the players came in a variety of styles. HitClips Discs players could play HitClips, but the new Discs were not compatible with existing players.
Despite the name, HitClips Discs were still memory cards on a key ring, but were round in shape. Although the songs on the format were still edited versions, they were longer in length with up to 120 seconds available. They were still in mono, with poor sound quality, so after 100 years of progress we had a format that was pretty much equivalent in capacity and sound quality to the brown wax cylinder.
Around 22 songs were released on the format before it was discontinued.
The Gizmondo was a seventh generation handheld video game console released by Tiger Telematics in 2005 in the UK, Sweden and the US.
It had advanced features not found on other handhelds at the time, such as a camera, Bluetooth and GPS. It ran on Windows CE 4.2.
It could be bought with ‘Smart Adds’ (which meant adverts were shown on the device at random intervals on the home screen) or for a higher price it could be supplied advert-free. In practice, the ‘Smart Adds’ system was never used and no adverts were ever shown.
Games were sold on Secure Digital cards, and standard SD cards could also used to load music and movies to play on the device. Just 14 games were released for the system during its short life, eight in the US and six in Europe.
It was expected to be successful, but there were early technical issues, and difficulties in financing manufacture. In the end less than 25,000 were ever sold and it is considered the worst selling handheld console of all time. In 2006, Tiger Telematics was forced into bankrupcy and the Gizmondo was discontinued.
The Nokia N-Gage was a combined phone and handheld game console, launched in 2003.
To compete with Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance, Nokia included a phone in the N-Gage. Unfortunately, this meant the buttons were not suited to gaming, and the phone’s speaker and microphone were built into the side of the device meaning users had to hold the device at right angles to their head, leading to the nickname of the ‘Taco phone’ (due to its shape). Some of its core features were impressive for its time, like Bluetooth connectivity and an on-board MP3 and video player.
Games for the N-Gage were distributed on MultiMediaCards, but to put the card into the device meant removing the back of the N-Gage along with the battery. A re-design in 2004 as the N-Gage QD moved the card slot to the outside of the device, but sales continued to be poor and only around 3 million were sold over its lifetime. Over 50 games were made available for the N-Gage range, but there were no ‘must-have’ titles (there were some big titles such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Call of Duty, and Pandemonium, but these were also available on other consoles).
Games continued to be released until 2006, but the device had already been withdrawn from Western markets in 2005 by which time the Sony PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo DS were on the market.
The N-Gage name lived on until 2010 as the name of a platform for online distribution of games to later Nokia smartphones.
The Memory Stick / Floppy Disk Adaptor (MSAC-FD2M) was introduced by Sony in 2000 for use in several of its Mavica line of digital cameras, and allowed the cameras to use a Memory Stick as an alternative form of storage.
The adaptor had the same form-factor as a 3.5-inch High-Density floppy disk, and incorporated a slot for a Memory Stick. The adaptor could be used in PCs (it could also be used in Macs, but was read-only) after installing suitable drivers. The adaptor required two lithium batteries to operate.
In the new Mavica cameras, users had a choice of using floppy disks for storage (as a number of previous Mavica models offered), or a Memory Stick with the adaptor which had the advantage of higher capacity (at the time, this was up to 64 MB).
By 2001, Sony had introduced Mavica cameras with dedicated Memory Stick slots, so an adaptor was no longer required.
HitClips were a digital audio format for children, introduced by Tiger Electronics in 1999. The players came in a variety of styles, such as miniature boomboxes with a built in speaker, or versions that looked like an MP3 player and came with a earphone. They were very basic, with only a play button and no volume control.
The HitClips themselves consisted of small memory cards with a key ring, that contained a 1-minute edit of a single song in mono. Sound quality was very poor.
Just over 50 tracks on HitClip were released between 1999 and 2003, from artists including NSYNC, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and Pink.
They were replaced by the very similar (but incompatible) HitClips Discs, which extended the brand for another year.
The Sega Visual Memory Unit or VMU was used in the Sega Dreamcast. The Dreamcast was the first sixth-generation video game console, preceding the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube, and was initially successful in the US. However, interest declined as hype around the launch of the PlayStation 2 increased, and Sega suffered significant losses, discontinuing the Dreamcast in 2001 and withdrawing from the video game console market.
The Visual Memory Unit was a 128 KB memory card that plugged into the controller. Unlike other memory cards for game consoles, the Visual Memory Unit contained a small LCD screen, speaker and control buttons so it could be used as a minimal handheld console separately from the Dreamcast. It could also convey secret gameplay information to the player via the controller.
The Visual Memory Unit also had file manager capabilities, a clock and calendar. They could be connected to another Visual Memory Unit for multiplayer gaming or transfer of files.
The standard Visual Memory Unit colour was white, but many other colours were released, and some branded Visual Memory Units were released in Japan, such as Sonic Team and Hello Kitty.