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Flash memory is non-volatile computer memory that can be electrically erased and reprogrammed. It is a technology that is primarily used in memory cards, and USB flash drives (thumb drives, handy drive, memory stick, flash stick, jump drive) for general storage and transfer of data between computers and other digital products. It is a specific type of EEPROM that is erased and programmed in large blocks; in early flash the entire chip had to be erased at once. Flash memory costs far less than byte-programmable EEPROM and therefore has become the dominant technology wherever a significant amount of non-volatile, solid-state storage is needed. Examples of applications include PDAs and laptop computers, digital audio players, digital cameras and mobile phones. It has also gained some popularity in the game console market, where it is often used instead of EEPROMs or battery-powered SRAM ("Save RAM", which was not necessarily static RAM) for game save data.
Flash memory is non-volatile, which means that it does not need power to maintain the information stored in the chip. In addition, flash memory offers fast read access times (although not as fast as volatile DRAM memory used for main memory in PCs) and better kinetic shock resistance than hard disks. These characteristics explain the popularity of flash memory for applications such as storage on battery-powered devices. Another feature of flash memory is that when packaged in a "memory card", it is enormously durable, being able to withstand intense pressure, extremes of temperature and immersion in water.
Although technically a type of EEPROM, the term "EEPROM" is generally used to refer specifically to non-flash EEPROM which is erasable in small blocks, typically bytes. Because an erase cycle is slow, the large size of a flash ROM's erase block can make programming it faster than old-style EEPROM.
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