PC Card = Obsolete

PC Card = Obsolete

Summary: With Apple's announcement of the MacBook Pro they also obsoleted a popular notebook technology - the PC Card slot (formerly known as PCMCIA).

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TOPICS: Hardware
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With Apple's announcement of the MacBook Pro they also obsoleted a popular notebook technology - the PC Card slot (formerly known as PCMCIA).

ExpressCard/34 is a blazing fast replacement for the venerable PC Card slot found on many notebooks, including several generations of PowerBook. ExpressCard is a serial interface delivering between 480 Mbytes/sec and 2.5 Gbit/sec/direction of bi-directional throughput, depending on the interface (USB 2.0 or PCI Express) while a CardBus PC Card is a parallel interface capable of only 33-132 Mbytes/sec.

The ExpressCard/34 is 34mm wide whereas the PC Card is 54mm wide, so current PC Cards won't fit in the new slot and aren't compatible. People that rely on PC Card media readers will be forced to switch to an external USB reader or direct cable connection until EC/34 media readers from the likes of Belkin and Buffalo (like the MCR-4/EX) begin shipping next month.

A bigger issue are high speed EVDO cards because they won't fit in the ExpressCard/34 slot either. There currently isn't a workaround to use an EVDO PC Card with ExpressCard because there aren't Mac OS X drivers for the U132 adapter. A Verizon representative confirms that they're hard at work on an EVDO ExpressCard and that it should ship around the time the MBP does. EVDOInfo.com is tracking developments on EVDO cards for the new ExpressCard/34 slot.

The decision to drop PCMCIA in favor of ExpressCard/34 probably wasn't a hard one for Apple. It's incredibly fast because it can access the full bandwidth of the USB or PCI Express bus and it's only a matter of time before the peripheral and accessory vendors jump on the ExpressCard bandwagon.

An interesting read is Dell's technology white paper "Industry Transition from PC Card to ExpressCard Technology" - it was published in September 2003.

Topic: Hardware

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7 comments
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  • Fast =/= Cutting Edge

    How silly can you be... the new express port is blazingly fast... great... except you're not going to get gigabit wireless anytime soon while using a cell network to get online.

    Sometimes manufactures are idiots, and the techno pushers can't see the forest for the trees. You'd they think they would have learned from the pc card type I, II, III situation and make the slot bigger for more interesting devices that can take advantage of the speed.

    I'd like to see ATI make an HD tuner card for that crummy little space...
    ITTech001
    • Bigger =/= Better

      While I too would love to see an HD tuner card for the ExpressCard slot, do you honestly expect a hardware manufacturer to start making things *larger*?

      It's just not going to happen in the age of miniturization. Bigger does not equal bettter, especially when it comes to notebooks.

      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady
    • Missing the practicality

      The problem with this is that so many PC card devices are available and in use. While speed is always good, I honestly wonder what they're gonna do with 2.5GB/s. no hard drive rotates that fast. No network runs that fast. a GPU would be pointless in that slot. Blu-ray won't be running that fast. I guess it will be useful in the future as networks and drives get faster, but don't see a current benefit for all that speed as nothing else will go that fast. Even an HD tuner would be fine in a standard PC card slot, and the size could be made up with a breakout box or dongle.
      voyager529
  • ExpressCards don't have to be 34mm

    The ExpressCard is actually being promoted as the next-generation replacement for the PC Card, so I understand Apple taking the opportunity to move ahead with it.

    What I don't get is why they went with a 34mm-only slot. Most of the new PC laptops are including a combo 34mm/54mm slot, so many manufacturers will probably build 54mm cards.

    Presumably, once Kodawarisan gets his hands on one, we'll see that there's some physical reason Apple chose to support only the 34mm size.
    fsteele@...
    • it's very simple..

      they blame wintel for running the economical scycle by making older hard/software obsolete in a spiral.
      Well that's exactly what Apple is doing here by making these cards obsolete and not even having the new ones backward compatible.. so the whole range of accessories have to be changed abruptly..
      NBR5
  • Firewire part deux

    Faster, better -> not really needed -> no longer available . . .
    Roger Ramjet
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