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A Briefcase in Your Pocket

Your paperwork is much easier to carry when it’s the size of a pack of gum.

By Helen Thompson

If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly on the go. Simplify your life, say the self-help experts! File things on your computer, rather than in your filing cabinet!

And if you’ve been making the shift to a “paperless” office, you’re probably in the same boat. Like me, you’re thinking, “That’s just great for minimizing clutter, but what happens when I want to pluck that file out of the cabinet or file-folder rack to take home with me?” Don’t worry, there’s a tech solution, and it’s not that heavy laptop or a complicated CD-burning procedure that takes a half hour, to say nothing of specialized hardware.

Get a jump on it
I was sitting with a wireless-enabled colleague recently at a conference wishing I could transfer a file to the internet through his laptop, but neither of us had a floppy disk, or even floppy-disk drives on our laptops. “If you had a jump drive, it’d be a snap,” he said.


What is this “jump drive?” I wondered. When I got back to my internet connection, I looked it up. I actually did know what it was, but not that name for it—they are also called Pen Drives, Thumb Drives or Key Drives. These portable data storage media allow you to carry much more than a standard floppy disk with much less hassle than you’d have burning a CD-ROM.

Why the crazy name game? According to the USB Flash Drive Alliance, these are all brand names for flash drives, as they are called generically, and they all operate the same way: You plug them into your USB port, and you can easily move files between your computer and your flash drive and back again. Best of all, these plug-and-go drives can hold from 32 megabytes to two gigabytes of data—that’s more than 1,400 floppies! (I can just imagine wandering around with a thousand floppies—I’ll go back to the briefcase, thanks.)

Prices vary according to the size of the drive; the more megabytes, the more moolah you can expect to shell out. If you’re just moving documents around, you can go for the smallest drives, which start around $15; if image-heavy presentations or audio files are your game, go for the larger capacity. A 256 MB flash drive will retail for around $80.

Putting the fun back in file transfer
The space economy and tidy price of a flash drive lends itself well to novelty packaging. For instance, several companies offer bulk quantity flash drives that you can customize with your logos. But if you (or more likely, your company) are not inclined to drop that kind of money on a promo item, you can still pick up flash drives that hang on your keyring or tuck into your pen case.

Some are imbedded into funny accessories that make great conversation starters when you break them out right before you launch the PowerPoint presentation you have stored on it. Swissbit, for instance, makes a classic Victorinox Swiss Army knife with a flash drive. And the ever-irreverent Dynamism offers the flash drive in sushi, rubber ducky and stuffed animal stylings.

Don’t worry, there are plenty of standard flash drives for you to use. And they’ve never been cheaper. Take a look around at your favorite electronics store and get your paperless, to-go!


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