PC Card

What Does PC Card Mean?

A PC card is a standard for the peripheral interface for laptop/notebook computers. PC cards are defined and developed by the Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA), a group of industry organizations in the U.S. that was set up to challenge the Japan Electronic Industry Development Association standard for memory expansion cards.

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No longer commonly used for memory expansion, the PC card has become the general standard for attaching laptop/notebook computer peripheral devices such as network cards, modems, hard disks and memory cards for early digital cameras. Although some portable computers still use PC cards, they have largely been replaced by the ExpressCard interface.

Techopedia Explains PC Card

Formerly called PCMCIA cards, the PC card used a 68-pin, dual-row connecting interface and is about the size of a credit card. It varies in thickness from 0.13 to 0.64 inches, and was originally built around an enhanced 16-bit Industry Standard Architecture bus platform.

PC cards come in five types:

  • Type I Cards: Designed to the original specifications. They featured a 16-bit interface and were typically used for memory devices such as RAM, flash memory, one-time programmable memory and static random access memory cards.
  • Type II Cards: Featured a 16-bit or 32-bit interface. These cards introduced input/output support, which allowed the attachment of a variety of peripherals directly or via a short cable.
  • Type III Cards: These were also 16-bit or 32-bit, and they accommodated a hard disk drive and other interface cards with full-sized connectors.
  • Type IV Cards: Introduced by Toshiba, they have not been officially standardized or sanctioned by the PCMCIA.
  • Compact Flash Cards: Smaller cards that feature a 50-pin PC card interface with both a memory mode and an ATA storage interface mode. These are commonly used in modern single-lens reflex digital cameras and other devices.

Today, nearly all the functions the PC card interface was designed for are powered by USB devices. The ExpressCard, which replaced the PC Card, has a USB interface.

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Margaret Rouse

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.