SD Cards: A trip down memory lane

SD initially was short for Secure Digital, a non-volatile memory card format developed for use in portable devices. Now known as SD memory cards, they may be small, but they’ve been on a big journey since their inception in the late 1990s…

August 1999

The SD card was born following a collaboration between SanDisk, Panasonic and Toshiba, who wanted to standardise the memory market and improve the customer experience. The SD card would in time replace the MMC (MultiMedia card) which was launched two years earlier.

January 2000

SanDisk, Panasonic and Toshiba founded the SD Association, a non-profit organisation committed to promoting and creating SD card standards.


The miniSD card was born.


The microSD card was born.

January 2006

SDHC format announced. New format features 32GB storage capacity.


Production of miniSD cards ceased, replaced by demand for tiny microSD cards.

January 2009

SDXC format announced. New format features storage up to 2TB and speeds up to 300MB/s.

  • Late 2012 – Lexar – first 256GB SDXC card.
  • January 2014 – SanDisk – first 128GB microSDXC card.
  • December 2014 – SanDisk – first 512GB SDXC card.
  • March 2015 – SanDisk – first 200GB microSDXC card.
  • May 2016 – Samsung – first 256GB microSDXC card.
  • August 2017 – SanDisk – first 400GB microSDXC card.
  • January 2018 – Lexar – first 512GB microSDXC card.
  • January 2019 – Lexar – first 1TB SDXC card.
  • February 2019 – Lexar and SanDisk – first 1TB microSDXC cards.

September 2010

Ultra High Speed (UHS), UHS-I, revealed by SD Association. New faster bus-interface boasts data transfer speeds up to 104 megabytes per second, perfect for real-time video recording.

January 2011

New UHS-II bus interface specification, which triples data transfer speeds to 312 megabytes per second, announced by SD Association.


Samsung invents 3D NAND. Benefits of the new technology include greater storage capacity per SD card, greater reliability, faster performance, longer lifespan, lower power consumption.

February 2016

SD Association launched its fastest speed class, Video Speed Class, which also delivers real-time multi-file recording for many applications and supports the highest video resolutions and qualities available.

November 2016

SD Association introduces the first and most basic App Performance level, App Performance Class 1 or A1. SD memory cards displaying the A1 symbol will meet, or exceed, the following levels under specified conditions: Random Read Input-Output access Per Second (IOPS) of 1,500, Write IOPS of 500, Sustained Sequential performance of 10MB/s.

February 2017

SD Association introduces a higher level performance class, App Performance Class 2 or A2. A2 memory cards deliver app-running performance by meeting or exceeding the following levels under specified conditions: • Random Read Input-Output access Per Second (IOPS) of 4,000, • Write IOPS of 2,000, • Sustained Sequential performance of 10MB/s.

UHS-III announced by SD Association. New bus interface doubles the fastest SD memory card transfer rate up to 624 megabytes per second (MB/s). UHS-III faster speeds help move large amounts of data generated by data-intense Gbps wireless communication, 360-degree cameras, drones, 3D, 4K and 8K videos recorded on SDXC and SDHC memory cards.

June 2018

SD Association announces SD Express which adds the popular PCI Express® and NVMe™ interfaces to the legacy SD interface.

  • PCIe interface delivers a 985 megabytes per second (MB/s) maximum data transfer rate.
  • NVMe upper layer protocol enables advanced memory access mechanism, enabling a new world of opportunities for the popular SD memory card.
  • Maximum storage capacity in SD memory cards grows from 2TB with SDXC to 128 TB with the new SD Ultra Capacity (SDUC) specification.

February 2019

SD Association announces microSD Express, the fastest memory card for mobile devices. microSD Express joins SD Express in integrating PCIe® and NVMe™ for up to 985 MB/sec transfer rate with backwards compatibility.

That’s the story of SD memory cards so far, but what about the future?

Technology is evolving. New devices and applications, in increasingly competitive markets, bring with them new challenges for OEMs, and securing the right data storage is just one of them.

Here at Cardwave we work in partnerships with the leading flash memory manufacturers to ensure that we are perfectly placed to offer our customers the very best memory solutions. We are trusted advisors to many of the world’s top OEMs, and are ‘in-the-know’ when it comes to flash memory. To see how we can help your business achieve the very best results contact us today.

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