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Definition: PC Card

(1) (PC card) An expansion card that adds peripheral capability to a PC. Early PCs came with several cards plugged in, but all those circuits are typically on the motherboard today. However, a graphics card is often added for increased gaming performance. See expansion card and PC.

(2) (PC Card) An earlier expansion interface for laptop computers developed by the Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA). Introduced in 1990 and also known as a "PCMCIA Card," a PC Card was a plug-in module that contained a peripheral such as a modem, network adapter, storage drive or cable TV decoder. The PC Card was superseded by CardBus and ExpressCard. See PCMCIA, ExpressCard, CableCARD, CompactFlash and PC Card adapter.
             ----Form Factor---   Data
             Thick  Long  Wide    Rate
              (millimeters)     (MB/sec)

  PC Card (16-bit)
    I        3.3    86    54       40
   II        5.0    86    54       40
  III       10.5    86    54       40

  CardBus (32-bit)
    I        3.3    86    54      132
   II        5.0    86    54      132
  III       10.5    86    54      132

  ExpressCard (Serial)
   34          5    75    34      342
   54          5    75    54      342

Adding Functionality
PC Cards added functionality in laptops just like plug-in boards expanded desktop computers. Because a "PC Card" could refer to both the PCMCIA PC Card or any card inside a PC, people would often say "P-C-M-C-I-A Card." (Top image courtesy of Personal Computer Memory Card International Association.)

Very Common Years Ago
Most laptops in the 1990s and early 2000s had at least one Type II PC Card slot. The CardBus card (bottom) added 2GB of disk storage.

Desktop Readers
PC Card readers were available for desktop machines, either externally (top) or internally (bottom). (Image courtesy of Microtech International, Inc.)

CableCARDs are PC Cards
CableCARDs are Type II PC Cards that plug into TVs and DVRs to decode a cable subscriber's channels. (Image courtesy of Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company.)