Those little pen knife-sized gadgets

There are early adapters and late adapters and I guess I’m the latter. It took me forever to purchase a digital camera and now I don’t see how I ever lived without one. Now it’s the “memory stick” that I finally got around to purchasing.

People have been asking me so many questions about these little devices that I thought I had better try out one. Memory Sticks, or Flash Drives or flash memory devices, are those little pen knife sized gadgets that plug into your computer via a USB port and act just like little floppy drives except they are completely solid state and have no moving parts.

I purchased a Kingston DataTraveler, 512 megabyte unit. This little thing is about two inches long, a half inch wide and a quarter inch thick and can hold about the same amount of data as a compact disk. Amazing.

My home computer is a Dell with Windows XP Home edition. As soon as I inserted my new memory stick a little message appeared in the lower right corner of the screen saying that Windows recognized new hardware which it now was installing. When I clicked on “My Computer,” I saw a new drive called “Kingston (F:).” It was ready for me to write data. Also in my System Tray in the lower right corner, a new icon appeared which said, “Safely Remove Hardware” when I positioned my mouse pointer over it. Clicking on this icon brings up a screen that allows me to close the action of the memory stick and remove it from the computer without losing any data. Bill Gates thinks of everything.

I still wasn’t sure what I was going to use my new gadget for until a friend called and asked me to help install her new computer. I put my new memory stick in my pocket and went to offer assistance. After getting the new computer up and running I was asked to transfer files from the old machine to the new one. I pulled out my memory stick, stuck it in the old machine’s USB port and proceeded to copy data files onto it. I dragged and dropped files using Windows Explorer just like you would to a floppy or compact disk. Then I unplugged the stick and inserted it into the new machine and reversed the procedure. What a pleasure. If I forgot a file, just put the stick back into the old computer. Nothing could be simpler.

Now my memory stick sits on my desk at home waiting for its next assignment. Of course I’ve lost the little plastic cap that protects the USB plug, but I have the stick in a little plastic bag.

I think I’ve become a believer in these flash drives because they are so useful. Now when I’m asked about how to use them, I can answer. They come in a variety of capacities and prices are all over the place. I purchased mine at MicroCenter but they are available everywhere.

If you would like to hear more about Flash Drives or other computer topics, visit “Coffee and Computers” at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. ‘C’ Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit. And visit my blog at

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.

Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin. Visit his web site at: and his blog at This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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