DiskOnKey was the first USB flash drive and gave birth to a technological revolution in data storage and transfer.

What is DiskOnKey?

The DiskOnKey was a revolutionary invention that combined two existing technologies: flash memory and the universal serial bus (USB). Flash memory was invented by Toshiba in the mid-eighties and the USB was invented around a decade later.

So in 1999, The Israeli company M-Systems filed a patent application for what they called “the architecture for a USB-based flash disk”. Around the same time, IBM claimed that one of their employees was the original inventor of the USB flash drive.

Neither company actually made it first to the market.

The Singaporean company Trek 2000 International released the ThumbDrive (which is still a nickname for USB flash drives today) in early 2000. IBM and M-Systems would eventually team up to launch the DiskOnKey in the US market that same year.

The timing was perfect.

The humble floppy disk could no longer serve the needs of consumers or professionals. And optical media, such as CDs, were still considered rather impractical because of how long it took to record data onto them.

Features and Benefits of DiskOnKey

The original DiskOnKey could only hold 8MB, which wasn’t anywhere near as much as most CDs. But it had several advantages that made the DiskOnKey an instant hit. It was small, didn’t require any special software, and it could transfer data really fast.

The DiskOnKey wasn’t cheap, however. The original 8MB version retailed at no less than $50, which was a lot more than CD-ROMs. But since it could be used and reused countless times, the cost was quickly recouped by consumers and professionals alike. In addition to that, it was also more durable since it contained no moving parts and didn’t take damage from scratches.

Today, USB flash drives are everywhere. And like most other pieces of technology, their capacity has improved while the prices have gone down significantly. There are now USB flash drives with over 2TB of space, and they can be written and rewritten as many as 100,000 times before they have to be discarded.

Furthermore, advancements in USB technology has also increased data transfer times drastically. Another benefit of the USB flash drives is that they’re compatible with pretty much any device — hence the “universal” part of their name.

That means users can transfer data between Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems, as well as DVD players, Xbox One consoles, and PlayStation 4 consoles. There are even some handheld devices that work with USB flash drives because of micro-USB technology. And since USB flash drives are powered by the device they’re inserted into, you never have to worry about them running out of battery.

The Legacy of the DiskOnKey

Needless to say, DiskOnKey contributed greatly to the advancement of both professional and consumer technology. And while cloud storage and transfer of data are becoming increasingly more common, USB flash drives are not likely to go away anytime soon. They still invaluable in areas with limited or no Internet connectivity, and can be used to store data you can’t risk being leaked online.

Image courtesy of TIME.

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