CompactFlash - Technical Details

Technical Details

The CompactFlash interface is a 50-pin subset of the 68-pin PCMCIA connector. "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", according to compactflash.org. The interface operates, depending on the state of a mode pin on power-up, as either a 16-bit PC Card (0x7FF address limit) or as an IDE (PATA) interface.

CompactFlash IDE mode defines an interface that is smaller than, but electrically identical to, the ATA interface. The CF device contains an ATA controller and appears to the host device as if it were a hard disk. CF devices operate at 3.3 volts or 5 volts, and can be swapped from system to system. CompactFlash supports C-H-S and 28-bit Logical block addressing (CF 5.0 introduced support for LBA-48). CF cards with flash memory are able to cope with extremely rapid changes in temperature. Industrial versions of flash memory cards can operate at a range of −45° to +85°C.

NOR-based flash has lower density than newer NAND-based systems, and CompactFlash is therefore the physically largest of the three memory card formats introduced in the early 1990s, being derived from the JEIDA/PCMCIA Memory Card formats. The other two are Miniature Card (MiniCard) and SmartMedia (SSFDC). However, CF did switch to NAND type memory later. The IBM Microdrive format implements the CF Type II interface, but is not solid-state memory. Hitachi and Seagate also make microdrives.

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