Fun with marketingspeak

I recently purchased (and will have, if Amazon ever gets around to shipping) a USB memory card reader, to make it easier to get pictures from my digital camera into my iMac.

What I found amusing, though, was the designation given to these multi-slot card readers. Fact: these things have slots for four different types of memory cards. CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, and MMC/SD. Some of them have four separate slots, some have two (one for CF, one for the others). But none read more than these four different types of cards.

These devices are, however, referred to as “6-in-1,” “7-in-1” or even “8-in-1” card readers. Why the distinction? Well, there’s CompactFlash Type I and Type II, which are sometimes counted separately. There’s the “Microdrive”, which used to be an IBM product, but now seems to refer generically to a miniature hard drive in a CompactFlash Type II enclosure. But (and this is important) there’s absolutely no difference, from the card reader’s point of view, between a CompactFlash Type II memory card and a “Microdrive.” That doesn’t stop marketeers from counting them twice. MMC and SD are sometimes separated, even though the two are physically and electrically identical. And I once even saw Memory Stick MagicGate counted separately. MagicGate is a content protection mechanism, so this is roughly akin to a DVD player advertising that it plays two different types of video discs: DVDs and DVDs with Macrovision!

There are some “7-in-1” readers and a few “8-in-1” devices, but most are “6-in-1.” Even though they are all exactly the same, functionality-wise, there seems little consensus on which six “different” memory cards are counted. Some treat CompactFlash types I and II as different, some the same. Some count the Microdrive separately, some ignore it. Some treat MMC and SD as separate card types, some just list MMC/SD. It would seem, though, that in marketingland, four is never less than six.