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SanDisk 1-terabyte microSD card is now available (tomsguide.com)
115 points by skilled 4 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 126 comments

I don't know how I remember this random crap, but way back in 1998 there was some guy on the LKML who said that a company was going to come out with a 90gb drive made from reverse engineered UFO technology that would be as big as as poker chip. Everyone though he was a kook of course. Interesting to think we've exceeeded what would have been considered technology of extraterrestrial origin 20 years ago when it comes to data storage.


One thing the aliens are messing with us is that they only reveal technology to us that’s within a few decades of us developing it ourselves. They never show the real advanced stuff they have.

It's maybe not the most common sci-fi trope but quite a few works touch on this, like Star Trek or Banks' Culture - there is little point to technology transfer that would be "indistinguishable from magic." If the recipients don't understand the underlying principles, cannot create or use the tooling to create or fix these technologies or lack some intermediate technology, they will be dependent on the provider or back to square one when the gifted tech fails. That's why it's better to reveal the technology or science one step at a time.

You can only stand on the shoulders of giants by stepping on the shoulders of successively taller people.

Good idea. So I guess the aliens have a very sophisticated master plan to get us up to speed. We just have to be patient.

"indistinguishable from magic."

I think that trope only works for people who are inclined toward superstition. If an alien were to demonstrate teleportation or replication or something else equally far fetched, I would look at it as advanced technology, not magic.

I'm skeptical of magic in general, though.

The point of the quote is that you wouldn’t be able to grasp the basic principles it operates on, and as such it would be functionally equivalent to something as unexplainable as magic. It doesn’t matter what the nature of the object actually is or what you consider it to be; what matters is that you would not have any basis to elaborate a judgement.

It was not meant literally, it's an allusion to Arthur C. Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

SciFi is always based on our current level of technology.

For example, the scifi series Perry Rhodan, which started in the 60s, had people use punch cards up until the year 3000 AD, the reboot spinoff in 2006 has tablets and microSD cards being thrown around before the heroes even meet the aliens.

That's because they're only one step ahead of us.

UFO sightings didn't drop because everyone started carrying cameras, it's because aliens developed cloaking technology.

“UFO sightings didn't drop because everyone started carrying cameras”

But for some reason the quality of pictures doesn’t improve with quality of the cameras :)

Circa 1997/1998, I told my music professor that I look forward to the day when we could fit all of, say, Mozart's music on a single piece of media, like, a cube or something.

Silly me. I thought it would take a cube.

If by chance you are mis-remembering and it was a 90 megabyte hard drive, it may have been these real things: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microdrive#Microdrive_models_b... If you didn't mis-remember, well, it's still an interesting diversion of a link under the circumstances.

Never seen one of those in Europe, I would have probably bought some... anyway I love how that most of that page has clearly not been touched for 13 years.

Stories like this make me optimistic about fully autonomous vehicles

Am I the only one that fantasizes going back in time and bragging about such things like having a consumer-affordable 1TB removable storage device the size of a thumbnail in my personal and cheap super-powerful computer that's comfortably in my pocket? How much would people in the past pay to even glance at or gasp touch such a marvelous thing?

I'd love even a cheap modern SSD in my machine ~15 years ago. I remember thinking I was hot shit with my raided pair of 74gb Raptor drives.

I thought I was hot shit for having 10k rpm Seagate Cheetah SCSI drives, Ultra 2 Wide, with 5ms seek times. 9gb was enough for anybody back then.

i remember working at the OSDL in 2001/2002 and being amazed that we had a whole terabyte spinning.

Good news! The manufacturers of those computers have all acted to prevent such time-travel shenanigans by taking away the option to add removable storage from all their devices.

(At least, I assume that's the reason they stopped allowing removable storage. Some people argue that it was just a way for them to squeeze out extra profit by forcing you to pay them if you wanted extra storage, but that's crazy talk.)

The excuse I've seen most of them use is that users buy the cheapest possible SD cards, then when they are slow they blame the phone for being slow. That and an SD card slot is an extra weak point to waterproof etc...

I'm assuming it's mostly just about giving an easy way to do price discrimination as you imply, but I can see those actually being real issues too.

It’s also a relatively big slot in ever-thinner devices where even a slim sound jack is “too bulky” nowadays.

Also waterproofing is easier without the slot.

Isn't the slot needed for the SIM anyway? Many pbones seem to combine both the SIM(s) and the microSD in a single removable tray.

I've often pondered getting stuck back in the 1960s or something with my cell phone, and the astonishing uselessness it would have. It would be feasible at the time to isolate the battery and directly power the rest of the device, but... then what? No internet, no wireless, no mechanism for input or output... it wouldn't be quite useless, but it's not all that useful.

Now, send me back with my laptop and it's a completely different story. I've got enough development stuff on that to make serious dough. It would be really weird... probably the fastest communication mechanisms we'd have are using the speaker for modem-based communication, and using the webcam to scan in incoming data somehow, since nothing in that era can even say "hello" to any port I currently have, but we'd be able to get somewhere.

RS-232 was introduced in 1960, so you're just a USB dongle away from communicating with many devices.

In my hypothetical, I was surprised by my sudden time displacement. If I'm prepared, well, like I said, I'd be taking my laptop and conventional computers, not my cell phone per se. Also my cell phone backed up by computers is more useful anyhow. With care and preparation I've got all sorts of options, even going back farther than the 1960s; push comes to shove I can bring solar cells and my own printing press or something, etc.

> It would be feasible at the time to isolate the battery and directly power the rest of the device

Or take a portable solar charger with you.

> but... then what? No internet, no wireless, no mechanism for input or output... it wouldn't be quite useless, but it's not all that useful.

It can hold a gigantic amount of invaluable information.

English Wikipedia as an HTML dump seems to be just 15GB[1]. I think that includes images. All OSM planetary map data seems to be storable in 45GB[2].

If only all knowledge was as accessible.

[1] https://dumps.wikimedia.org/other/static_html_dumps/current/...

[2] https://planet.openstreetmap.org/

"It can hold a gigantic amount of invaluable information."

Which can only be extracted by somebody hand-copying it down. Possibly we can work up some sort of photograph-based system to just graphically copy it to a book or something, though. Which is also the only hope you have of extracting the map data, too.

This is the sort of thing I mean; things you take for granted as being valuable have huge chunks of their value chain hacked away.

Audio content would be the easiest to deal with; cell phones would output master-quality recordings of whatever music you may have, because 1960 cables are still bigger than your phone's little jack, but at least they can fabricate a smaller one, electrically compatible with what they already have.

Top supercomputer in 2000 was ASCI Red. It 2000 had 1.2 TB memory and 1 Tflop computing capacity.

High end smartphone in your pocket would be basically ASCI Red. Worth $67 million in real dollars.

Memory sounds like RAM / volatile memory. Is that really storage / non-volatile memory?

EDIT: From looking at:


It's RAM. Storage is at 12TB. 1.2TB of RAM... I think we still have a ways to go before our phones can do that.

There's more computational power and storage than that in the pockets of the passengers of a city bus.

My phone has 2GB of RAM. That bus would need 500 such phones in the pockets of passengers to have the around same amount of RAM.

Storage-wise, I have ~140GB total storage. I think that's above average, but that bus would still need around 100 such phones.

I don't know how the buses are in your city. In mine, even when people are packed like sardines, I don't think we get near those numbers.

A ferry, then. The ferry in my city carries 2000 passengers when it's full (and it's always full in the rush hour, with one ferry leaving every 10 minutes). Assuming every passenger has a phone, and each phone has only 2GB of RAM, it's already around the 4TB mark.

Your phone is old and behind the times.

That said your numbers are still roughly correct. I don't think you can reasonably fit 200 people in a city bus, even one of those English double decker busses.

Medium-sized city buses can hold about 40-50 people, double-deckers go just above 100 if i remember correctly, but nowhere near 150.

I wouldn’t stick my hand in your pocket! :)

Given my experience with microSD cards, I wonder how reliable that device is. Is it even possible to write the full 1 terabyte successfully with a good chance?

I immediately had a similar question, and have been wondering about why...

SanDisk was very reputable for memory cards, such as their CF cards preferred by professional photographers, but (perhaps because of that) SanDisk was the first target I recall for eBay counterfeits. The counterfeits were sophisticated, including retail packaging, and I've heard of it also getting into the supply chains of some retailers.

I wonder whether this early counterfeiting (even before problems on Amazon) ruined the market for reliable memory cards, and everyone switched to competing primarily on size, speed, and price. (If you're going to get lots of bad reviews anyway, due to counterfeits, you might not want to invest substantially in high quality that nevertheless only reduces bad reviews and RMAs a negligible amount.)

Sandisk Extreme cards are very reliable within their (relatively limited) write endurance. If you buy a Sandisk Extreme card from Amazon, it probably isn't a Sandisk Extreme card.

I've been using a Sandisk Extreme 64GB card in my GoPro daily for months without an issue. I've had maybe one or two videos in that whole time that had any issue at all, and even then, VLC was able to play everything other than a second or two around the problem.

It's funny how Samsung cards from Amazon are green but they're red if you get them from anywhere else. It's almost like Samsung doesn't want Amazon counter-fitters diluting their brand on other sites.

What do you mean by "probably"? Are you saying that nearly all Sandisk Extreme cards on Amazon are counterfeit? Just 50%? Either way it's an amazing claim and I'd like to read the supporting material.

In a recent lawsuit, Apple claimed that 90% of the Apple-branded Lightning cables they bought on Amazon were counterfeit. Amazon clearly have a grave counterfeit problem. I don't know the exact percentage of fake Sandisk cards, but I'd rather not play the lottery with my data. Adorama and B&H have trustworthy supply chains and fair prices.


Since then Amazon has become an Apple Authorized Reseller so maybe there's more incentive to crack down on Apple products, at least.

My first thought, too. My 120G SD card failed pretty quickly, causing me a lot of time to get my phone apps back to a working state. I ended up throwing it away and buying a new phone with more memory. It was that costly to me (in time).

Strange, I have had dozens of USB sticks failing, but no microSD issue. Even those with the most writes (in dashcams) have been going strong for years now.

I wonder if this is less a problem with the media, and more with unstable supply of power to the devices. Perhaps relevantly, SDHC and SDXC support two voltage modes.

The way this is going what we really need is a new card format with some kind of a controller inside that can do error correction and other basic stuff. Really just turn the card into a mini SSD.

I cut my teeth on data warehousing in the mid 1990's and I remember when a 1TB database was considered a really big deal. As in, it required very expensive hardware and software an a ton of custom engineering. Now we have thumbnail sized microSD cards that size.

That's a lot of data. The first harddrive I saw was a Tandy. 5 MB capacity, cost $1,000 and was as big as a pc itself. You had to issue a command to park the read heads before powering off lol. My father recently passed away, and he still has that thing along with his early tandy computers (TRS-80 in various iterations through the 4P). You were sooo 'leet in '83 if you had one.


Think about the incredible amount engineering involved to design and manufacture this new card - millions of lines of code when you consider all the design and validation tools used. What a great time to be alive!

Which means you can now run a ~1TB database (poorly) on a $35 raspberry pi by adding a $450 card. Adjusted for 1990 inflation, that $500 becomes $298, though obviously it's not a very practical setup for somebody who would actually need a 1TB database.

I get you’re joking, but I wouldn’t trust a RPi anywhere near this card because of all the card corruption the RPi has done.

That’s strange, never experienced any issues. Do you use proper power supply?

It’s arguably a very common problem. Just google “raspberry pi corruption”

likely atime updates and no graceful shutdown... all filesystems are subject to that behaviour, nothing particular to RPi.

There are well documented ways for making Sd cards reliable in embedded systems.

I remember buying a 1GB hd for 14.000 USD for editing audio. Luckily it was not my money. Sometimes in the early nineties.

Wasn't even that long ago (maybe 4-5 years) that my old company dropped $150k on a couple of fusionIO cards to support and Oracle DB that was 4TB. (I think that was 3 servers total, to get the standby, and the failover in another DC)

MicroSDs are an infosmuggler dream. You could probably store all financial and product information from an entire medium-size business in one of those bad boys. Pop it into your wallet in a fake coin, and you can take your flight home without ever risking online surveillance. Once you’re on friendly soil, you tip a not-really-bellboy or not-really-barman, and that’s it.

Not that you couldn’t do it before - a lot of interesting info is in small Excel spreadsheets anyway - but now you don’t even have to worry about choosing what to take, just dump it all and let the buyer figure out what they want.

Maybe if you are stealing government secrets, but for most companies with a little social engineering you can probably walk out of the front door with an entire corporate issued laptop and they wouldn't figure out for months, if at all.

This is incredible. MicroSD is so small! What is the theoretical limit of this storage medium? There must be a point where we can’t go any smaller?

I suppose you're asking about the theoretical limit of MicroSD rather than the theoretical limit in general, but there's never a bad time to read Feynman's essay, "There's plenty of room at the bottom"!


We're going to have at least one new generation of these, assuming these were created with DUV (deep ultraviolet) lithography. EUV (extreme UV) is in development and will give even greater transistor density.

What’s the bit error rate on a card like this? Does anyone know how long 1TB of data would actually last, with zero bit flips, in a drawer? Presumably the primary market is JPG/MPG capture, where a few flipped bits don’t matter.

Anecdotal, but I have never found SD cards to be a resilient form of storage. I frequently back up any important data from SD cards, which is a nightmare considering the sluggish read and write speeds, because I have encountered many instances of corrupted data.

My use case is generally portable gaming and older digital cameras, YMMV. Main brand I used was SanDisk, however.

All of the major brands are crap if you really care that much about the data on the card. I've seen major brands fail even in RO.

You want an "industrial" SD card if you have a hard need of recovering the data.

Isn't it usually a RAID-1 config of 2-3 cards in any situation that actually matters? Thinking of high end cameras, boot drives for VM hosts, etc:



I've seen controller bugs that'll take out all 3 cards if given the same access pattern.

All FLASH devices have an erase limit before the sector becomes non-eraseable, likely it was not a bad controller but bad choice of filesystem or bad application behaviour that was causing excessive wear in a small location.

With the right access pattern we could hit it at 80kb/sec distributed writes for six hours on an SD card with a wear leveling FTL, which shouldn't be possible. We confirmed with the vendor that it was a controller bug where the FTL was losing track of a virt to physical sector mapping.

Also Flash isn't an acronym and shouldn't be capitalized like that.

How likely is that if you have cards from different vendors?

Are you shipping a product or dealing with a fleet? You don't want two different items on your BoM just because you don't trust the vendor to actually ship a usable product.

industrial grade SD cards have bad-block-management and wear levelling, commercial ones don't, hence their bad reputation.

They also cost more due to over-provisioning for the above features.

There is a reason they don't mention the retention spec.

A bummer about the new Macbooks not having SD card slots, besides the inconvenience for camera/audio device users, is that the SD card slot offered an extremely convenient way to add extra storage space for not a lot of money.

Apple designers hate holes and buttons. They are fighting really hard to remove as many as possible. No way they put a huge slot on the side for an SD card.

The perfect notebook in the eyes of an Apple designer would be a solid slab of aluminium with no holes, no screen and no buttons. Perfection itself.

> no buttons

you know, this should be possible with AI and CV: train the NN with millions of words typed on a keyboard with stereo cameras (or perhaps even sonar) mounted just below the screen pointing directly at the fingers. between seeing where the fingers are landing and using some sort of auto-correct-style intelligence tied into dictionary lookups of what words could be produced, it should be possible to have a virtual keyboard.

I'm not sure what the benefit of such a thing would be, and of course typing directly on metal wouldn't be comfortable. but there may be a use somewhere.

Considering how crap the new keyboards are, you need a dock for the external keyboard anyway - and most decent docks have one or two card slots.

Without my Caldigit Ts3+, I would have probably sold this laptop two years ago.

One day someone will invent wireless technology and we can forget slots.

Then apple wouldn't get their thousand dollars from you if you wanted more than 512gb.

Interesting that it seems write speeds haven't improved much - 90MB/s doesn't rival most spinning HDDs.

You do have to sacrifice a little to fit a terabyte and all the right controllers onto something the size of a thumbnail.

Yeah in terms of reliability it's a lot. This form factor needs some sort of revolution to bring up its reliability to the same level as hard drives.

It might be enough to simply have a "raw" mode that bypasses most of the controller circuitry. That way data recovery companies could work their magic and we could choose to use more of the flash cells for error correction.

industrial spec cards have bad block management and wear levelling, commercial cards do not (typically), hence their poor reputation.

Pretty much all cards have wear leveling and bad block management. The commercial cards just have such shitty, bottom of the barrel Flash that they simply wouldn't work most of the time without those in place. ie. they're not features put in place for us users, or to differentiate their product line, but instead so they can hit the yields they're looking for.

Ha, yes, that's a fair point. Reading my comment back it was a little harsh!

Don't SSDs "RAID0" their internal chips to gain some performance gain? If so, then that could also explain the difference.

This isn't a limitation of the storage, the card has a UHS-I interface, which has a bus speed of 104MB/s. UHS-II cards exist and are somewhat faster.

The upcoming microSD Express interface standard will support a 985MB/s bus speed.

For us old folks... it's the equivalent of roughly 1 million of these 25 year old storage devices:


Is that the save icon?

I know it’s intended as a joke, but you’re right. It’s really nothing more than the save icon nowadays. We used to build them! :)


Pfft, I could fit all that on like, 10,000 ZIP disks.

I'm getting a 403 for this (and for every other URL I try on tomsguide.com). Is anyone else seeing this? Wondering if it's blanket blocking European users, which is a notion I wonder about only because I've seen it before, and it always seems quite rude to do so without so much as a message as to why.

Also in Europe, I am not getting a 403. Nor any "please agree to our 7000 cookies to track you" message. It is… mostly content, surprisingly.

Thanks - appreciate it!

It's something else going on. Here's an archived copy that works:


(Most other copies Wayback Machine archived are 403…)

Interesting - thank you!

I see the same from London.

Thank you - seems like it may be a very localised issue in that case (although the fact that Wayback is also struggling to grab the content suggests otherwise).

The other day I was removing a MicroSD card and the spring caused it to be shot across the room, where I still haven't found it. I've also snapped them in half on multiple occasions. So no, I do not wish to be anywhere near a $450 MicroSD card.

The relevant XKCD from January 2013 addressed the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes. It then shifted into microSD cards, whose density works out to 160 terabytes per kilogram. But those seem to have been 64Gb cards at the time (see label on milk jug). https://what-if.xkcd.com/31

If you upgrade to 1Tb cards, that's about 2.5 petabytes/kg.

That's a pretty expensive wagon, though, at 1.4m$/kg. Maybe it would be more profitable as contraband.

I think you mean 2500 TB/kg, not PB/kg.

Yeah I did. Fixed.

Same difference

If you're going to be tetchy about base 2 and base 10, recall that cards are labeled in base 10 so Munroe's math is wrong to start with.

I’m wondering how many of these can be crammed into a 1U box. Might be an alternative for cold on-site storage. Managing tapes gets old and annoying quick.

Using SD cards is a terrible idea for cold storage since flash storage degrades over time. I recall reading somewhere that SD cards average 101 weeks.

Of continuous writes

At these physical sizes, you could build a robotic MicroSD card library in 1U. Like a tiny version of a robotic tape library. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwMn7YpF8r8&t=192

An entire room of tapes and a robot for a max capacity of 15.4 Tb, according to this: https://www.cbronline.com/news/ibm_tape_library_dataserver

Upgrading to modern 20 Tb tapes would put it at 378 Pb.

Or just hook them all up, and rely on the chip select line (and maybe selectively power them off too for thermal reasons). No moving parts necessary.


I bought a 512MB Samsung MicroSD when eBay was flooded with them (after Christmas) after they got bundled with Samsung S9 phones. Paid less than $100. It's still rather empty.

On the other hand, if you record 3D 360° video with a Vuze camera at 200MBit/s it's full after less than 6 hours.

Did you mean GB?

$100 seems like a high ceiling for 0.5 GB in 2019.

Indeed :-) it was 512GB

I've been looking forward to this, because it just about fits my digital media collection. I've been hacking together an HTML/JS media center on my Rasp Pi Zero.

Same with any SD card. Some of it is provisioned for spare sectors. Also, it’s 1 TB, not 1 TiB, so actual capacity is about 930 GiB

I wonder what happened if car companies tried to pull off that stunt.

"Now with seven seats.

Actual user storage less."

> I wonder what happened if car companies tried to pull off that stunt.


(sorry for the shorthand answer, but that acronym only exists because car companies are so very well acquainted with stunts like that)

Well, the Porsche 911 is marketed as a four-seater. Seating four people in a Porsche 911 is however quite hard.

A 911 salesman was presenting it as "emergency seat". As if you need to carry an unexpected passenger onto the next club.

It is a trick, but not illegal. It is just measuring with different units. Feet vs meters so to speak.

No, the different units is a distinct issue.

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