Sunday, April 13, 2008

Disposable USB Sticks

An idea that I had just now: USB Sticks that have very little storage (16MB or 32MB probably) that could be given away or used to win prizes on (like CDs in cereal boxes) because the hardware would be worth virtually nothing. There could even be like 1MB or 2MB ones that would be great for printing off documents, or even to hand in to a teacher (although most don't like that). Because of their very small storage size, they could physically be extremely tiny as well.

Now here's a twist: consider having these in addition to having a small device with two USB ports, a 4-way switch, an arrow, a light (or more) and a button.

Above is a simple representation of what I meant, showing one or more of the following

  1. I'm creative
  2. I'm a visual thinker
  3. Diagrams rule (but they're better on napkins)
  4. I have an aversion to sleep
  5. I have an addiction to MSPaint
  6. I do my best creating at night
  7. I figure you people will have no idea what I'm talking about if i don't show a diagram
  8. I'm crazy
I'm not sure which (if any) of those are true, but thats a major digression. What the image is supposed to show is how simple of a device it would be. You might be beginning to realize what it does now... or maybe not. This is what it does:

It copies files from one USB stick to the other. The three options are:
  1. Circle with Arrows: swap the contents of the two sticks. There would potentially be some limitations to this one, but it should work fine assuming that the sticks are of different sizes and one is more than 2x the other. If they are the same size, why bother? Just trade sticks.
  2. Double Arrow: copy everything on each stick to the other stick, leaving the data on each stick. Both sticks now contains the same thing - the combined contents of each.
  3. Single Arrow: copy everything from one stick to the other stick.
  4. X and Arrow: delete everything on one stick and replace it with the contents of the other stick.
In the last two cases, the data moves following the arrow. It would be nice to be able to choose whether duplicate files were overwritten or not.

Basically, what you'd do is plug both USB Sticks into the device. You'd set the switch or whatever to the setting you desired, then push the button. The device whirrs and lights up yellow for a few seconds, then (hopefully) the light turns green. If there were an error or some sort, the light would turn red. There could be flashing combinations of lights to indicate different errors, somewhat like an iPod Shuffle.

This was a very long explaination for a small and indeed rather simple device, but I really think that both of these – the sticks and the copier – would be really useful to have around. Imagine if you could buy those few MB of storage for only a few cents. Given that a 1GB (1000MB) drive costs about $10 these days, that works out rather well. The devices would be a bit more expensive, but on the whole it would allow for great synchronization. Come to think of it, it would be great if we could sync computers with a USB cable. Hmm....