Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Trouble with Thumb Drives

The USB thumb drive has been described as the refrigerator magnet of technology, because it can, and presumably does, come in every color, shape, and size imaginable. However I have been pondering this presumption and I've found it to be particularly problematic.

Here, let me illustrate while I alliterate. This is my USB thumb drive, as it currently is – attached to my keys:

Innocuous as such an incarnation of itinerant information storage as this may seem, it is actually ripe with the potential for tiny disasters. Just this morning in fact, I was nearly befallen of such a disaster. My carpooling flatmates had left for work and I was mustering – by the way, is the past tense of 'mustering' 'mustered'? – to head out to campus. Being February in Chicago, I found the morning pissing rain. A quick IM verified that while my crappy umbrella was broken, a spare could be found in said flatmates' car. So out the back door I poped, clad in my usual boots, jeans, Tshirt and hoodie with naught in hand but said flatmates' fancy car key/unlocker remote thingy. But as the door swung to close behind me my so far un-caffienated brain wobbled in warning. I caught the door with my boot and checked my pockets for good measure. [I have a ritualized pattern for leaving my apartment that I've kept to since highschool. I pat my pockets in order with one hand, saying aloud 'phone, keys, wallet' while holding the door open with the other. It ensures that I do not – nay, can not lock myself out or forget any of these vastly important personal rectangles] I realized with a sluggish start that my keys were plugged in – via the attached and above pictured flash drive – to my desktop pc.

I unlocked the door and a few quick moments later and I had gathered the spare umbrella and a fresh disdain for such a terrible and disastrously dangerous data disc design.

Is a keychain really the best we techno-geeks can come up with for a solution to the derelict data docking device? I tried a few other ideas for places to keep my thumb drive, but the design was working against me all the while. The only decent one I could come up with was to replace the little dongly thing that broke off my favorite hoodie's zipper.

Clearly I think the issue here is not where to keep these cleverly crafted keychain companions (close enough) but rather how we design our portable data storage solutions. The problem is certainly not one of size or form factor. Here next to my 1Gb flash drive is a 2Gb micro SD card I just pulled out of my phone:

So with data storage is so small and efficient, why not integrate said storage into a watch or wrist band? An anklet? A subtle and manfully simple (yet elegant) necklace? Such products have been attempted to be sure:

But clearly as a product marketed to fashion-sensible 'tweens [or to put it another way, someone who would buy any 'Bratz'-related product]. What of us sensible young techno-geeks who prefer a simple fashion statement of the black Tshirt and dark jeans? Is it too much to ask to be granted a more sensible solution to the simple storage of selected slices of saves and WAV's?

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