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Flash memory capacity grows

SanDisk says it has developed the first "double-density" 80-megabit flash memory chip.

SanDisk has completed development of what it says is one of the world's highest-capacity flash memory disks.

The Sunnyvale, California, company has developed the first "double-density" 80-megabit flash memory chip.

Flash memory is used primarily for smaller computing devices such as personal digital assistants and digital cameras. A solid-state product (no moving mechanical parts), it maintains memory contents even when the device is shut off, much like a hard disk drive. But it has the disadvantage of being more expensive than hard drives.

Developed in conjunction with NEC and Matsushita Electronics, the chip will bring flash memory prices down by more than doubling capacity in some cases.

SanDisk's memory technology stores two pieces, or bits, of information in each tiny data "holder" within a memory chip. A memory chip is made up of millions of these data holders, referred to as cells, which typically store only one bit each.

Intel introduced a similar technology called StrataFlash in 1994 and reintroduced it in September of this year.

The top capacity of SanDisk's CompactFlash cards will increase from 24 to 60 megabytes (MB) with the new technology. The capacity of other SanDisk memory products will increase as well.

The double-density chip is expected to somewhat narrow the price gap between flash memory and other storage technologies, such as hard disks. According to SanDisk estimates, a 10MB chip that sells for about $175 today will sell for about $90 one year from now.

The company expects to ship the product in the second quarter next year, after displaying a prototype at Fall Comdex.