USB: A History

Trying to copy a large file or document was virtually impossible in the late 1990s. Technology to burn CDs was still in its early stages and floppy disks couldn’t store a large amount of memory (1.44 MB max). The solution was found in a little keychain-sized piece of equipment called a flash drive or a Universal Serial Bus (USB for short). The USB drive was first introduced to the commercial market in 2000 through Trek Technology and IBM. IBM marketed their product as “DiskOnKey” and it held approximately 8MB. More than enough to store large files and data.


Current USB models have the capability to run up to 60 MB/s, however technological limitations inherently keep the USB 2.0 models running at a slower speed. The technology for the USB 2.0 wasn’t widely available until 2003 and could transfer data 30 times faster than the previous version. The first 1 GB flash drive started selling in 2004. The small, keychain-like flash drives have taken many shapes, from pens to sticks and can hold anything from Word documents to You Tube videos.

Future Generations

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, vendors have started selling the USB 3.0 which transfers data at speeds of up to 5 Gbits/s (compared to the original which ran at about 12 Mbits/s). These newest drives will be compatible with 2.0 slots and are about the size of a dime while holding storage of up to 64 GB. For consumers looking to buy a aesthetically pleasing flash drive that doesn’t look like a key chain, the Netbook USB drive might be the thinnest on the market at just 5mm and looks like a stick of gum (only smaller).

Flash drives have come a long way in a short amount of time. The earliest version was tangled in lawsuits for much of the late nineties while companies like IBM and Trek Technologies hashed out rights to the patent, as more and more devices became USB compatible, flash drives have increasingly become a part of our everyday lives.