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Understanding GPS and PCMCIA

GPS and PCMCIA is a combination that allows laptops, PDAs, and the like to function as GPS units. PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) was formed by several Integrated Circuit card manufacturers in 1989. Its purpose was to adopt an industry standard for computers to accept peripheral devices such as add-on memory and modems.

pcmcia GPS and PCMCIA cards fit into PCMCIA slots in portable computers such as laptops and PDAs. Portable computers that have PCMCIA ports are able to accept devices such as sound cards, RAM memory, pre-programmed ROM cards, hard drives, CD ROM and SCSI controllers, floppy disk controllers, and modems as well as GPS PCMCIA units.

Before any expansion standards, computers were often designed to accept only proprietary peripherals. These devices were unique only to them and did not allow the use of similar devices made by other manufacturers.

As a result there was a need for a common expansion method for general use in the computer industry. The adoption of the PCMCIA standard allowed computer manufacturers to make a common expansion capability for all machines. This would allow computer users to share peripherals with others. Also, consumers could select add-ons from multiple vendors and have a wider range of choices.

The PCMCIA defined the card's electrical interface, associated software, physical design, and computer socket design. The standards come in three forms: The original design is Type I which is 3.3 mm thick. Then Type II was developed with an expanded thickness of 5.5 mm. And for even more flexibility, there is a Type III which is 10.5 mm thick.

pcmcia card type I pcmcia card type II pcmcia card type III
Type I Type II Type III
Images courtesy Accurite Technologies, Inc.

With GPS and PCMCIA the user has several choices. If a person has a laptop, he or she can buy a GPS PCMCIA unit to plug into it. This way the laptop's superior features over a simple hand-held GPS unit can allow for more elaborate functions such as mapping and greater memory storage.

For more information, see PCMCIA primer and PCMCIA website.

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