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What is PCMCIA?

By Garry Crystal
Updated: May 16, 2024

Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA) is a non-profit partnership of over 500 companies, founded in 1989. Their aim has been to set an international standard for what are now known as personal computer (PC) cards. PC cards were originally used to add memory to notebook computers, but are now used in many diverse devices.

PCMCIA cards are the size of a credit card. There are basically three different types of PCMCIA cards. They are all the same rectangular size, but they differ in width. If you look at the back of your computer, you should see slots that PCMCIA cards fit into. The three different widths have different applications for your computer.

The type I card is used for adding extra memory, ROM or RAM to your PC. The Type II card adds Internet modem or fax modem capabilities. The type III card, usually the thickest card of the three, is large enough for portable disk players.

Over the years, PCMCIA has increased the flexibility of their cards. With the advent of the many multimedia applications that PCs are currently capable of, the cards now have high speed networking capabilities. As the technology has developed, the cards are not just for computers anymore. Other devices can also benefit from PCMCIA cards. Cable televisions, cameras and even cars with devices such as satellite navigation systems and personal tracking systems benefit from the PCMCIA technology.

As the technology has grown to encompass devices such as cameras, the need for smaller cards has been tackled successfully. Newer cards that are a lot smaller have been added to the range. These small PC cards can be slotted into cameras to add extra memory, and then slotted into a PC or printer to enable the transfer of photographs or data. You now have the ability to print out your own photographs easily and with very little expense.

The latest technology from PCMCIA is the ExpressCard. The ExpressCard is approximately half the size of the regular PC card, but has a wide range of capabilities and improved performance features not previously available. The ExpressCard has features such as wireless communications, extra memory and security facilities, all in one device. It can easily be slotted into the PC without the need for opening or unscrewing any part of your PC.

Over the years, computer manufacturers have welcomed the PCMCIA cards. They can be used in Macintosh and Windows PCs and can usually be installed without the need for rebooting your PC. As the cards and slots are of a universal standard, they are an easy and reliable way to upgrade or add options not previously available to PCs.

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Discussion Comments
By anon20765 — On Nov 06, 2008

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