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Definition: PC Card

An earlier expansion interface 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 component such as a modem, network adapter, storage drive or cable TV decoder. Routinely available on old laptops that had at least one Type II slot, 16-bit PC Cards were superseded by 32-bit CardBus cards and serial-based ExpressCards. See PCMCIA, ExpressCard, CableCARD, CompactFlash and PC Card adapter.

             ----Form Factor---   Data
             Thick  Long  Wide    Rate
  PC Card     (in millimeters)  (MB/sec)
    I        3.3    86    54       40
   II        5.0    86    54       40
  III       10.5    86    54       40

    I        3.3    86    54      132
   II        5.0    86    54      132
  III       10.5    86    54      132

   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 PC Card slots for expansion. The CardBus (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.)