There are many names that people use nowadays to call the same thing – USB flash drive. Before I delve into what they are, first let’s look at what a USB flash drive is. Generally speaking, this device consists of two parts: a flash memory plus a universal serial bus (USB) interface. So that covers the first two words of the name. For the last word: drive, it is part of the name mainly because the computer treats the device like a hard disk drive.
Here’s the list of the other names:
- Thumb drive;
- Pen drive;
- Flash disk;
- USB drive (no use of the word “flash”);
- Key drive;
- Memory stick;
- And more.
Many of these names were originally a proprietary name that a company develops to call their new device. For example, ThumbDrive was first promoted by IBM, and people just started calling the device a thumb drive when they are referring to a USB flash drive.
One confusing name is memory stick. It was originally made by Sony as their own edition of memory card for their gaming device. Sony made a whole series of Memory Stick including Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO and more are in the making.
The name Key Drive came from the concept of using a flash drive as a security key. For example, the bank makes its customer to use their special USB device before they can access their own online banking system. Thus, the USB device becomes like a key to open or access their security box.
Pen drive came from the look of the device itself. The manufacturer simply models the USB shell into the size of a pen and calls it a pen drive. Over time, pen drive also becomes an alternative name for the device.
Just like keeping the word drive as part of the name, the word disk also remains in use in some regions of the world. Before CD-ROM came along there was the floppy disk. Since there is no moving part in a USB flash device, some people prefer to use the term USB flash disk instead. As this is a more accurate description of the device.
As the IT hardware companies continue to develop their own model of the device, they have come up with many creative names. Kingston has a range called DataTraveler, Transcend calls their series JetFlash. As these devices become popular, they may even become another alternative name people use to call USB flash drive.