CompactFlash® is a small, removable mass storage device. First introduced in 1994, CompactFlash cards weigh a half ounce and are the size of a matchbook. They provide complete PCMCIA-ATA functionality and compatibility.
At 43mm (1.7") x 36mm (1.4") x 3.3mm (0.13"), the CF Type I card's thickness is about one-half of a current PCMCIA Type II card. It is actually one-fourth the volume of a PCMCIA card. Compared to a 68-pin PCMCIA card, a CF card has 50 pins but still conforms to ATA specs. It can be easily slipped into a passive 68-pin PCMCIA Type II to CF Type I adapter that fully meets PCMCIA electrical and mechanical interface specifications.
At 43mm (1.7") x 36mm (1.4") x 5mm (0.19"), the CF Type II card's thickness is equal to a current PCMCIA Type II card. It is actually less than one-half the volume of a PCMCIA card. Compared to a 68-pin PCMCIA card, a CF card has 50 pins but still conforms to ATA specs. It can be easily slipped into a passive 68-pin PCMCIA Type II to CF Type II adapter that fully meets PCMCIA electrical and mechanical interface specifications.
The only difference between CF Type I and CF Type II cards is the card thickness. CF Type I is 3.3 mm thick and CF Type II cards are 5mm thick. A CF Type I card will operate in a CF Type I or CF Type II slot. A CF Type II card will only fit in a CF Type II slot. The electrical interfaces are identical. CompactFlash is available in both CF Type I and CF Type II cards, though predominantly in CF Type I cards. The Microdrive is a CF Type II card. Most CF I/O cards are CF Type I, but there are some CF Type II I/O cards.
CompactFlash cards are designed with flash technology, a nonvolatile storage solution that does not require a battery to retain data indefinitely.
The CompactFlash card specification version 4.1 supports data rates up to 133MB/sec and capacities up to 137GB.
CompactFlash storage products are solid state, meaning they contain no moving parts, and provide users with much greater protection of their data than conventional magnetic disk drives. They are five to ten times more rugged and reliable than disk drives including those found in PC Card Type III products. CF cards consume only five percent of the power required by small disk drives.
CompactFlash cards support both 3.3V and 5V operation and can be interchanged between 3.3V and 5V systems. This means that any CF card can operate at either voltage. Other small form factor flash cards may be available to operate at 3.3V or 5V, but any single card can operate at only one of the voltages.
CF+ data storage cards are also available using magnetic disk (Microdrive).
CF+ I/O cards include modems, Ethernet, 802.11b WiFi, serial, Bluetooth wireless, digital phone cards, USB, laser scanners, VGA, etc.
The connector used with CF and CompactFlash is similar to the PCMCIA Card connector, but with 50 pins. Years of field experience in portable devices have proven the reliability and durability of this connector in applications where frequent insertions and ejections of the card are required. Other small form factor flash cards use connector technology that is not reliable or durable in these applications .
CompactFlash provides the lowest cost flash storage solution. With the built-in controller, a wide variety of low cost flash technologies can be used. The built-in controller lowers costs further by reducing costs in the host device and allowing defective flash chip cells to be mapped out, thus increasing flash chip yields. CompactFlash provides the lowest cost data storage solution.
When compatibility, interoperability, reliability, cost, and performance count, CF and CompactFlash cards are the ATA-compatible solution that delivers.
The CompactFlash Association (CFA) was established in October, 1995 as a nonprofit, mutual-benefit corporation with the premise that CompactFlash technology will result in the introduction of a new class of advanced, small, lightweight, low-power mobile products that will significantly increase the productivity and enhance the lifestyle of millions of people. The concept behind CompactFlash technology is simple: to capture, retain and transport data, video, audio and images. CompactFlash provides the capability to easily transfer all types of digital information and software between a large variety of digital systems. CF technology expands data storage with the use of disk drives (Microdrive) and I/O cards.
The CompactFlash Association is a nonprofit, mutual-benefit corporation that promotes adoption of CompactFlash as a worldwide, ultra-small, removable storage standard for capturing and transporting digital data, audio and images. The CFA, which makes the CompactFlash and CF(logo) trademarks and CompactFlash Technical Specification available royalty-free to member companies, is headquartered in Palo Alto, CA.
The CFA board members include Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Lexar Media and SanDisk. The combined markets pursued by these corporations will be highly influenced by the introduction of many new computing, imaging, communications and consumer electronics products utilizing the CF storage standard.
The copy cost $100.
Many leading consumer electronics companies, including the CFA's roster of members, have designed CF technology into next-generation products developed for consumer markets. CF technology is widely used in such products as portable and desktop computers, digital cameras, handheld data collection scanners, PDAs, Pocket PCs, data recorders, monitoring devices, slot machines and industrial/embedded computers. CF technology offers all of these applications new and expanded functionality while enabling smaller and lighter designs.
The goals of the CFA are to promote and encourage the worldwide adoption of CompactFlash and CF technology as an open industry standard. The association's primary objectives are to drive alternate-source availability; to drive acceptance of the CF & CompactFlash specification as an industry standard across platforms and markets internationally; to ensure compatibility for users of CF & CompactFlash products, and to evolve the approved CF & CompactFlash standard over time while ensuring backward compatibility.
The CFA will license the CompactFlash Specification, and CompactFlash®, CFA(logo) and CF(logo) trademarks, at no charge and no royalty to CFA members. This has encouraged industry to quickly adopt the CF form factor into as many new devices as possible.
The CFA has approved and published the CF+ & CompactFlash Specification. This vendor-independent specification will enable users to use CF products that function correctly and will be compatible with future CF designs. The idea is to eliminate future compatibility issues between different hosts, such as different computers and cameras or between different vendors of CF cards. A CompactFlash compatibility certification program and CF certification logo has been approved by the CFA members. This assures users of complete compatibility for all CompactFlash cards and host systems.
CF cards are being manufactured and marketed by many manufacturers. CF cards and components such as connectors manufactured by numerous vendors compete in performance, capacity, endurance, cost, reliability and product availability.
Any company that is or plans to manufacture, implement, or use CF products should consider membership in the CFA. Executive and affiliate level memberships are available. Recruitment of new CFA members is a major marketing goal of the organization. CFA membership is presently over 250 companies, with more on the way. The CFA includes a board of directors, technical committees, a marketing committee, a compliance committee and a variety of technical work groups. All committee and work group chairs are open to executive members only.
The market demand for CF cards has surged with the advent of new computers, cameras and electronics products. CF technology has widespread application in digital SLR cameras. The current roster of CFA members already includes several major companies that produce digital cameras. The momentum created by such companies as Canon, JVC, Nikon and Sony joining a single organization committed to the development of CF-based products, has propelled the adoption of the CF specification as an industry standard.
CompactFlash and CF cards are the film in Digital SLR cameras currently being sold and developed for the consumer and professional market.
With CF cards, camera users can easily eject their "film" and transport the images via the PCMCIA Type II adapter card or a CF reader to either obtain prints or move the photos to another digital system such as a computer, printer, etc. Higher capacity CompactFlash cards (currently up to 48GB) can store large numbers of images even with today's highest resolution digital cameras. Photos can be "developed" in seconds and transmitted or printed using high-resolution color printers. Copy shops, camera stores, desktop-publishing service bureaus, and major retail stores already have digital photo printing services that can accept CF cards and print 4x6 photos for as little as 17 cents.
Digital camera owners can use CF cards in a variety of ways. Real estate agents can take pictures of new homes that just came on the market and send them via modem or E-mail to prospective, out-of-town buyers who can view the pictures on their computers. Insurance agents can take pictures of accident scenes, incorporate these pictures into accident reports they compose on their computers and later submit for processing and payment. People can take pictures of family celebrations and later that day send the photos electronically to relatives or friends in distant states or countries. Camera users no longer need to "waste" the shots at the end of a roll of 35mm film just to get pictures developed. They can use as much or as little of the CF card as they need and then erase the CF when they have prints in hand or have stored the images digitally in their PC. The CF is then free for more photo taking. With CF film, taking pictures is less expensive because consumers don't have to keep buying new rolls of film. And "developing" photos in the traditional sense is eliminated altogether.
CF technology has provided a solution to a key problem facing manufacturers of handheld and Pocket PCs. Today's handheld and Pocket PCs are too small to use PC Cards. CF with its complete PCMCIA ATA functionality provides all the necessary data storage and I/O capability that is available in PC Cards. With CF technology, manufacturers reduce the size of devices without reducing functionality or flexibility.
CF I/O technology has provided a solution to a key problem facing manufacturers of Pocket PC's . They want to enable users to easily and quickly move data from one system to another. They also need I/O functions in a small package. CF I/O slots and cards can provide mass storage, fax/modem, barcode scanners, wireless networking and wireless Internet access capability for these devices.
CompactFlash is the dominant SSD used in non-consumer applications. CompactFlash is used in helecopters, B2 bombers, locomotives, defribrillators, slot machines, etc.
CF cards are available in capacities up to 48GB. The CF Specification can support capacities up to 137GB.
While many CF applications can operate with low capacity CF cards, higher capacity cards are increasingly used as digital camera resolution rises.
CompactFlash cards support both 3.3V and 5V operation and can be interchanged between 3.3V and 5V systems. This means that any CF card can operate at either voltage. Other small form factor flash cards may be available to operate at 3.3V or 5V, but any single card can operate at only one of the voltages
The connector used with CompactFlash is similar to the PCMCIA Card connector, but with 50 pins. Years of field experience in portable devices have proven the reliability and durability of this connector in applications where frequent insertions/ejections of the card are required. Other small form factor flash cards use connector technology that is not reliable or durable.
CompactFlash provides the lowest cost flash storage solution. With the built-in controller, a wide variety of low cost flash technologies can be used. The built-in controller lowers costs further by allowing defective cells to be mapped out, thus increasing flash chip yields and by reducing costs in the host device.
CompactFlash cards are able to withstand extremely rapid increases or decreases in temperature. Industrial version CompactFlash cards are offered with an extended operating temperature range of -40 C to +85 C.
CompactFlash cards have an operating shock rating of 2,000 Gs, which is equivalent to a 10-foot drop. With typical usage, a CompactFlash card can be used for more than 100 years with no loss or deterioration of data.
Typically consuming less than five percent of the power than that required to operate 1.8" and 2.5" disk drives, CF cards run at 3.3V or 5V with a single power supply. This makes them ideal for a range of current and next-generation, small-form factor consumer applications.
Numerous platforms and operation systems support CompactFlash and the PCMCIA-ATA standard, including DOS, Windows 3.x, Windows 95, , Windows 98, Windows CE, Windows 2000, Windows ME, Windows XP, OS/2, Apple System 7, 8, 9 & OS X, Linux and most types of UNIX.
CompactFlash data is protected by built-in dynamic defect management and error correction technologies.
The CFA is a licensee of the CompactFlash® trademark which is licensed royalty-free to CFA members.
The CFA(logo) and CF(logo) are trademarks of the CFA and are licensed royalty free to CFA members.
This page last updated August 17, 2008