Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 152 / MAY 1993 / PAGE S3

Is PCMCIA a true standard? (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) (Compute's Getting Started with PCMCIA)
by Richard O. Mann

The vision behind PC Card devices is one of complete swapability, but what is the reality?

Yes, the Personal Computer Memory Card International Association has issued far-reaching standards designed to make PC Cards totally interchangeable. Yes, the new Card Services and Socket Services standards sense the presence of PC Cards and read the setup information from the card itself. Yes, the theoretical underpinnings are in place.

But no, in the real world, we haven't quite achieved total interchangeability yet. In fact, with the cards and machines available today, you may encounter more than a little trouble getting your computer to recognize and use PC Cards.

Andy Fu, president of ACE Technologies of San Jose, California, a manufacturer of of PCMCIA memory cards, explains that the design and issuance of comprehensive standards is only the first step in a long process that leads to the happy day when any PC Card will work in any PCMCIA slot.

Today, his company--along with all the others in the PC Card business--is spending long hours writing software drivers to make its cards work with various models of host computers. When the newly issued Socket Services and Card Services standards are built into the host computers, there should be little need for separate drivers, although there will be some shakeout time as companies learn how to implement Socket Services, according to Fu.

Once the standards are issued, the necessary software needs to be incorporated into the computer's BIOS--the system-level software that's burned into the computer's basic chips. That done, computers that use the new BIOS need to be designed and built. The move from drawing board to retail shelves doesn't happen overnight, many months pass, even in the fastest of development cycles.

We are, in fact, poised on the brink of an era of fully interchangeable PC Cards, but we may be poised here for a while yet while the first generation of fully PCMCIA Release 2-compliant computers are built and the as-yet unforeseen glitches work themselves out. Andy Fu estimates that it may take one or even two years before buyers can count on the standards to ensure full and easy compatibility of PC Cards and computers with PCMCIA slots.