PCMCIA card standard was defined and developed by the Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA). In this post, MiniTool will give you some information about the PCMCIA card such as its history and types.

Introduction to PCMCIA Card

What is PCMCIA card? It can also be called PC card, which was originally defined and developed by PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association). In computing, the PCMCIA card is a configuration for computer parallel communication peripheral interface for a notebook computer.

The PCMCIA card was originally designed as a standard for memory-expansion cards for computer storage. The existence of an available universal standard for notebook peripherals led to the advent of a variety of devices based on their configurability, including network cards, modems, and hard drives.

Tip: There are many types of hard drives such as SATA hard drive, so if you want to know more information about the hard drives, it is recommended to go to the MiniTool website.

History of PCMCIA Card

In November 1990, the Personal Computer Memory Card International Association released the PCMCIA 1.0 card standard, which was soon adopted by more than 80 manufacturers. It complies with the Japanese JEIDA memory card 4.0 standard.

In October 1992, SanDisk (known as “SunDisk” at that time) introduced its PCMCIA card. The company was the first to introduce a writable flash RAM card for the HP 95LX (the first MS-DOS pocket computer).

These cards complied with the supplemental PCMCIA-ATA standard, which allowed them to be displayed as a more conventional IDE hard drive on a 95LX or PC. This had the advantage of increasing the capacity limit to the full 32M available under DOS 3.22 on the 95LX.

It soon became clear that the PCMCIA card standard needed to be extended to support “smart” I / O cards to meet the emerging needs for fax, modem, LAN, hard disk and floppy disk card. It also required interrupt features and hot plugging, which required the definition of new BIOS and operating system interfaces.

This led to the introduction of the PCMCIA standard version 2.0 and JEIDA 4.1 in September 1991, and the correction and expansion of Card Services (CS) in the PCMCIA 2.1 standard in November 1992.

In the 1990s, many notebook computers had two adjacent Type-II slots, allowing two Type-II cards or a Type-III card with twice the thickness to be installed. The card was also used in early digital SLR cameras, such as the Kodak DCS 300 series. However, their initial use as storage expansion is no longer common.

Since 2003, the PC memory card port has been replaced by the ExpressCard interface, although some manufacturers (such as Dell) continued to offer them into 2012 on their ruggedized XFR notebooks.

As of 2013, some Honda vehicles equipped with navigation systems still integrated PC card readers into the audio system. Some Japanese brand consumer entertainment devices (such as televisions) include a PC card slot for playing media.

PCMCIA Card Types

All PC card devices are packed in similar sizes, 85.6 mm (3.37 inches) long and 54.0 mm (2.13 inches) wide, the same size as a credit card. The original standard was defined for 5 V and 3.3 V cards, where the 3.3 V card has a key on the side to prevent them from being fully inserted into the 5 V slot only.

Some cards and certain slots can operate at both voltages as needed. The original standard was built around an “enhanced” 16-bit ISA bus platform. The newer version of the PCMCIA standard is CardBus, which is a 32-bit version of the original standard. In addition to supporting a 32-bit (rather than the original 16-bit) bus, CardBus also supports bus mastering and operation speeds up to 33 MHz.

Type I

The card designed according to the original specification (PCMCIA 1.0) is type I and has a 16-bit interface. It is 3.3 mm (0.13 inches) thick and has a double row of 34 holes (68 in total) along the short side as a connection interface. Type I PC card devices are commonly used in storage devices such as RAM, flash memory, OTP (one-time programmable), and SRAM cards.

Type II

Type II and above PC card devices make use of two rows of 34 sockets and have 16-bit or 32-bit interfaces. Their thickness is 5.0 mm (0.20 inches). Type II cards introduced I/O support, allowing devices to connect to peripheral device arrays or provide connectors/slots to interfaces for which the host did not have built-in support.

Type III

Type III PC card devices are 16-bit or 32-bit. The thickness of these cards is 10.5 mm (0.41 inches), making them suitable for devices with components that are not suitable for Type I or Type II heights. For example, hard drive cards and interface cards with full-size connectors do not require a dongle (usually the same as type II interface cards).

Type IV

The Type IV card introduced by Toshiba was not officially standardized or approved by PCMCIA. The thickness of these cards is 16 mm (0.63 inches).


CompactFlash is a smaller 50-pin subset of the 68-pin PC card interface. It requires setting the interface mode to “memory” or “ATA Storage”.

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