Rant: Sony Memory Sticks: what are they thinking?


Sometimes Sony do good things: they co-invented the DVD, created the Walkman, and gave us Trinitron CRT tubes, all great stuff. However sometimes they just do something nuts, like Mini-Disc, or something really nuts, like Memory Stick.

I can only guess that they invented Memory Stick because they didnt want to use someone else’s solid state memory format, like MMC or CompactFlash. Instead they gave the world the Memory Stick and decided to mandate its use on every damn thing they ever produced. I am bitter about this because I have a Sony Ericsson P800 phone, which thanks to the Sony connection, is a Memory Stick device. However, don’t be trying to put a Memory Stick in it, because it uses Memory Stick Duo, which is half the length of the regular ones and a little bit thinner. Memory Stick and Memory Stick Duos are actually serial devices, and limited by their design to 128M max, which isn’t enough for this millenium, or my phone. Like 640k wasn’t enough when some genius at my current employer thought it was.

Finding Memory Stick Duos used to be quite tricky, but always ended up somewhere selling Sony gear. Until this year no-one else produce any Memory Stick products except Sony, which meant that when you did find them, they cost an arm and a leg. The subtely of ‘Duo’ was lost on vendors and web sites too, so you couldn’t be sure even if it said Duo that it really was, or vice versa. However at some point the geniuses at Sony took a look at this confusion and said “haha, we have confused our users, lets make it worse. Much worse”.

I don’t know the exact order, but Sony then decided to add the words MediaGate and Pro and Memory Select to the Memory Stick vernacular. MediaGate is some kind of copy protection thing, Memory Select is a lame way of extending the address space by adding a switch for another address bit, and Pro is a parallel version that has much greater capacity limits. Then they put all these words in a bucket, shook it up, and randomly picked them out at a meeting to decide what to call their next memory products. So now we have:

  • Memory Stick
  • Memory Stick (with memory select)
  • Memory Stick MagicGate
  • Memory Stick Duo
  • Memory Stick Duo MagicGate
  • Memory Stick PRO
  • Memory Stick PRO Duo

and some more I can’t actually figure out. For the full list I direct you to the madness at the official site.

I had on my birthday list “128M Memory Stick Duo” and a friend foolishly decided to get me this. I opened my present and it was “256M Memory Stick Duo Pro” because he though he’d be a pal and get me more more than I asked for. Sadly it didnt work as it as was 256M and my phone has a limit of 128M. He apologised and took it back, and a few weeks later proudly gave me another present. This was a “128M Memory Stick Pro Duo“ but again that didn’t work as it was still a Pro, and Pro’s don’t work in my phone. He went away and has been avoiding me ever since.

If you are foolish enough to own a product with some kind of Memory Stick socket, then the fun really starts. If you look in the instructions you probably won’t find anything useful. If you buy some memory and look at that, it wont help either. I gave up on my friend and just bought myself some memory advertised as “Sony Memory Stick Duo” and when it arrived it clearly said this, which was good. It was also short, so that was good too as it was definitely Duo. But it also said MagicGate on it, and my phone manual makes no mention of this, so how could I tell if it was compatible? I looked at the back of the package and it said “can be used in Memory Stick and Memory Stick PRO devices“. ARRG! My phone is neither of these. I tried Googling but even Google has trouble with this terminology, all I could find were other people asking the same kind of question: which damn memory works in my damn device? The box has a support URL to use to determine compatibility, but that was worse than useless. In the end I tore open the packaging and plugged it into my phone, and all was good. I was lucky. The packaging is designed to self-destruct as it is opened, so good luck returning it if it doesn’t work.

Even the professionals still get it wrong. Meritline are a good supplier for memory, but have never offered Duo memory. On searching their site I did notice that their 128M Memory Stick entry had a picture that was clearly a Duo. I emailed them in the vain hope the picture was right and the text wrong, but no, the picture was wrong so they pulled it. They still dont sell any Duo memory and frankly given the confusion over the entire product range I am surprised anyone does.

Sony, stop the madness. If you ever produce another solid state memory format, do not call it Memory Stick. Please.

Comments (14)

  1. RichB says:

    The P910 now supports Duo Pro.

    It’s very easy to purchase the correct product from here:

    http://www.expansys-usa.com/d_storage.asp

  2. Personally I have decided to avoid all SONY products until they straighten out their act. The reason that I came to this conclusion is when I was helping my uncle install a memory stick reader on his computer. What upset me most was that this device used what looked like a USB cable to connect to the computer. So we had a couple laying around and we decided to plug it in and found out it did not work. Now I was thinking that this was a defective product. In actuality it was working fine. The probem was we were not using SONY’s USB cable. Turns out they are the only company that can produce a non-universal universal cable. I mean what type of sick engineer gets off in making a Universal cable unique to their product? I was under the imprression that Universal meant that this cable could be interchanged with all others, hence the name.

    They are a sick bunch of people.

  3. Off topic comment: Like 640k wasn’t enough when some genius at my current employer thought it was.

    I thought you worked for Microsoft, not IBM? IBM decided on 640K, and Bill never said that it would be enough for anyone.

    On the other hand, there IS another industry legend said a well designed software product would never need a hard disk or more than 128K of RAM to run on. And a well designed computer would never need a fan.

    That’s why the one of his computers melted if you put a piece of paper on top of them.

  4. Scott Allen says:

    I have one of those portable minidisc players, which isn’t too bad – relatively speaking. I mean, it could overheat and give me third degree burns, and that would make it really bad, so I guess saying it is not too bad is being a glass half full type of person.

    What is bad is the OpenMG software used to put content onto the player. This is one of the worst software applications I’ve ever put on my computer. I could go on and on about it, but I better stop.

  5. ArkanoiD says:

    and don’t forget memory stinks are about 4 times more expensive than cf.

  6. Colin says:

    I’ve been boycotting Sony for almost a decade now. They #$@% the industry up with their "never share technology" business philosophy.

    Let’s re-cap. Help me out, I may miss a few.

    Beta cassette (superior quality and formfactor than VHS)

    Mini-disc (Re-recordable optical and protective enclosure)

    Memory Stick (Hot-swappable unlike MMCs)

    I wish I can list a few more, but I’m at a blank.

    Go to hell Sony!

  7. andy says:

    sony makes it quiet clear in there knowledge base for the P800/p900 :–

    Q.Is Memory Stick PRO Duo compatible with P800/P900 series

    A. Unfortunately, the Memorystick Du Pro card is not compatible with the phone.

    Memory stick PRO DUO is not compatible with P800/P900, only Memory Stick DUO.

  8. Andy Pennell says:

    Sorry but I don’t agree andy. I went to the FAQ on the S/E site and its only section was "How can I use the Memory Stick Duo™ in the P800?".

    I asked the KB "what memory sticks work" and I got various responses, #8 was the one you describe. I did not see a list of the seven+ different Memory Stick formats along with the P800-compatible status.

    The memory stick site itself should contain basic compatibility info such as this, and does not.

  9. afrqefc says:

    I completely agree. If it wasn’t bad enough that sony had to go off and make their own format, but they had to go splinter it off into another 5 (or however many it was) different types of cards that aren’t all compatible. it’s so stupid…

  10. digitaldreams says:

    Hi,

     I must agree with you guys. Well disapointed to join your club. Got myself a P900 then bought 1 GB memory duo pro card with magicgate to overwelm the PDA capabilities of P900. The rest you all you guys already know. Previously been using mmc, sd cards and plunged into the spiders trap under the impression of SONY name.Should have searched hard. Anyways a good lesson learnt. Cheerz

  11. tony says:

    i had purchased a sony memory stick pro 256 MB with my digital camera. in attempting to delete the photographs I formated the Memory stick with my laptop. now its showing only 128MB of memmory and can take only half as much photos. I tried reformating it with the camera but no use.

    any suggestions or software fix ???

    please send reply to my E mail ID

  12. ady says:

    I laughed my ass off as i read this but then i remembered that i just got a p800 myself…well better to learn from the mistakes of others :)

    I sure changed my mind about sony dough…

    So…r u sure that i cant get more than 128mb on it?

  13. Spuffler says:

    FWIW, I recently purchased a Sony DCR-SX44, it uses SD and also supports their flubbed memory stick derivative (here is a quote from the current Sony specifications page for SX44): "Removable Flash Media Compatibility : Memory Stick PRO Duo™ MARK2 Media and SD/SDHC/SDXC (Class 4) media (Sold Separately)".