I recently purchased a Memorex 256MB USB flash drive, also known as a thumb drive. The package lists all the wonderful things about the device and has this line, bolding mine:
“Compact, lightweight and durable 10 years of data retention”
Question the first: Why only ten years? A search of past SD threads reveals mention of flash memory’s finite life span, measured in ‘write cycles.’ Is this what the 10 years of data retention is referring to?
Question the second: Are those 10 archival years, or 10 usage years? That is, if I save something to the thumb drive today then bury it in my sock drawer until 2013, will the data suddenly disappear or become unreadable at that time? Or does it mean that I can expect about a decade of regular use out of it? Will less frequent use yield a longer life span?
Question the third: What form will the 10-year failure come in? Will it be catastrophic, or will I see a slow degradation of storage ability that suggests it’s time to get a new device?
(I realize, of course, that with the rapid pace of technological change, the question is rendered somewhat moot. A decade from now USB flash memory thumb drives will surely seem as quaint as 5.25-inch floppies do today.)