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Blog  2  August  2010

Could  This  Vintage  Sony  Memory  Stick 

Be  Worth  a  Lot  of  Money?


Hello, I am a photographer from New Zealand, and I enjoy sharing my blogs and photographs with other enthusiasts. The above sunset was taken at Peka Peka, which is located on the Kapiti Coast in the North Island of New Zealand.

In keeping with the conventional blog tradition, the blogs on this site are presented in date order and include, for example, random thoughts and projects, and references to discussions on photographic forums that I have found to be very interesting. Click  here  to go to the index of blogs on this site. These blogs are quite informal, and thus differ from the style of my more comprehensive articles that are listed  here.

A Vintage 4 Megabyte Sony Memory Stick

Here is a photograph of the Sony memory stick that came with a Sony camcorder (TRV 11E) that I purchased in 2000. This memory card has a capacity of only 4 megabytes (mb). Each "high resolution" still image taken with this camcorder had dimensions of 640 pixels x 480 pixels, and a file size of about 80 kilobytes (kb).

Today, Sony has on sale a 32 gigabyte (gb) memory stick Pro Duo that is a lot smaller than the above 4 mb stick. Therefore, the 32 gb stick has a capacity that is 8,000 times greater than is available on the 4mb stick. Consider this, one high resolution image from the 24.6 megapixel full frame Sony A900 has a file size of about 20 mb, which exceeds the capacity of the above 4 mb stick by 5 times! It is also possible to buy a Sandisk 64 gb SD card.

Question: Just like some old postage stamps can be very valuable, could this vintage 4 mb memory stick also be worth a lot of money, now, or in the future?

On 2 August 2010, the above question was put to readers of the Digital Photography Review forum : "Sony DSLR Talk".

I have set out below a brief summary of some of the comments received and the replies that I gave to these comments. For full details of the comments made, please read  this DPR thread.

Comment: Hold on to the memory stick, pass it down a few generations (maybe 5 or 6), and it will be worth something.

My reply: Thanks for your advice, I think it might be the very first memory stick that Sony manufactured, but I am not sure about this. It's amazing, isn't it, that the current 32gb memory stick that Sony is marketing has 8,000 times the capacity of the 4mb stick that they produced about 10 years ago! And you can already buy 64gb memory cards, so where will it end? Each image from my 24.6 megapixel Sony A900 has about 20 megabytes, so this 4mb card is well and truly past its best!

Comment:  Vintage” does not an antique make.

My reply: I agree that a 10-year old memory stick is perhaps not yet an "antique", and not really in the same category as vintage cars, for example. I don't intend cashing in on this "valuable" memory stick, in fact I was thinking of tossing it out! If you owned a Sony 4MB memory stick, would you toss it out or keep it just in case it becomes valuable in a few years' time? In other words, is there much of a "vintage" digital camera / accessories market, or is it far too early for this yet?

Comment: The current 32gb memory stick that Sony is marketing is 10 times the capacity of the hard drive on the PC that I was still using about 10 years ago!

My reply:  Yes, computers have also come on in leaps and bounds! My first computer was the Sinclair ZX81, introduced in March 1981 by Sir Clive Sinclair. It had 1k RAM and then I bought the 16k RAM pack, which was then regarded as a major leap forward. Storage of data was on external cassette tape, and it could take 10 minutes for 1 program to load. Sometimes, after waiting 10 minutes, the program load would fail. I've still got this computer, perhaps I should dump it now, anyone want it? And then in 1982, there was the 64k Commodore 64, which actually produced colour! We loved the games that you could play on this computer.

Comment:  I'd assume that you'd have to wait a couple more decades, and it'd have to be something that was useful for the restoration of 2000 vintage gear.

My reply: But, perhaps the longer I keep my humble 4 megabyte stick, the more likely it may be that future generations will regard it as quite valuable? Consider this --- a 4 megabyte memory stick in the year 2000 has grown into a 64 gigabyte stick that is the maximum available in 2010. There are 1000 megabytes in a gigabyte, so 64 gigabytes represents 64,000 megabytes. In other words, the storage capacity of the latest memory stick has increased by 16,000 times in just 10 years, from 4 megabytes to 64,000 megabytes.

Now, I wonder if, over the next 10 years, the capacity of a 64 gigabyte memory stick could also grow 16,000 times? But, perhaps there are physical manufacturing limits to how much capacity a small memory card can accommodate? If the capacity of a 2020 memory card could be 256,000,000 times greater than my 2000 card, I think that, by then, my 4mb card could be quite valuable to a collector? But, I agree that, if a Year 2000 digital camera is kept to go with this 4mb stick, this may make the total package even more valuable!

Comment: I have a 1 Gb IBM microdrive which I used with my second DSLR, a Fuji S1. It is too small a capacity for my A900, it's painfully slow but I can't bring myself to just dump it. And back then they were about AU$1000. Perhaps we could start a museum?

My reply: Yes, I think that's a good idea! After all, there are museums for vintage cars etc. so perhaps there are museums that already feature old digital cameras / camcorders? I still have a digital camera that I bought in the year 2000, but like you, I can't bring myself to dump it, particularly when it cost NZ$2000! It's still a good camera, even though it's only 3 megapixels, but even then, Sony had a movie function aboard this digital "stills" camera. So, perhaps it would pay to keep our old digital cameras? Look, for example, at the high prices that 1930's vintage valve radios can command!

Comment: I have a stack of unused IBM Punch Cards - each one holds 80 columns of data. I'm hoping someday they are worth something but in the mean time they make nice note paper...

My reply: Switched-on educationalists, when giving lectures, often like to actually show students some evidence of the differences between past and present technologies. It can turn a boring lecture into one that students will remember for a long time. For instance, if I was giving a lecture about digital cameras and their storage devices, I would like to be able to actually show students a Year 2000 4 megabyte stick and then show them a current 64 gigabyte stick that is half the size that has 16,000 times the capacity of the 4 megabyte stick.

This could help to illustrate that Canon's claims of a 2030 wonder camera / camcorder that has huge storage capacity, compared with today's maximums, might just be possible. You never know, tiny memory cards that store petabytes, exabytes, or better still, zettabytes, may be just around the corner. Just imagine, when giving a lecture, having a 4 megabyte memory card in one hand and a smaller 4 zettabyte card in the other.

And rather than just talking about the punch card era, or showing students pictures of IBM punch cards, it might add some zest to a lecture to have a few punch cards available to hand around to the class. So, your note paper might be quite expensive if you consider what a University may offer you for some of your cards! In other words, never underestimate the scarcity value of practical examples of past technologies!

Comment:  I think the biggest problem in the future will be finding a working battery pack.

My reply: Yes, you make a very good point. The first Sony camcorder and digital camera that I bought in 2000, both used the Sony NP-FM50 battery. This same battery is also used by the Sony R-1, which I bought in 2006. I see that Sony still sells this battery, so it might pay to buy another one before it is phased out, because once this happens, three of my cameras go down for good!

When Sony stops manufacturing a particular camera battery, do you think that some other manufacturers may keep a compatible battery going for a while? Even if your camera has a DC power input, this is of limited use if you still want to use your "antique" cameras. So I agree that, the lack of batteries, rather than memory sticks, might be one of the main reasons why digital cameras won't keep going for much longer than 10 years!

Comment:  Old postage stamps can be valuable because of what is on the stamp (person, etc). I don't think "4 MB" compared to "4 GB" (or even "4 TB" in the future) is anything to make it valuable. It's simply a number and 2 letters on a card. A few years ago I saw old computer ISA cards and memory modules being cut up and turned into key chains. That's about what good your 4 MB memory card is good for.

My reply: Well you might be right, who knows? But there are collector's items for thousands and thousands of items, so I encourage as many people as possible to convert their old memory cards into key chains. If this happens, the scarcity value of my memory card will increase significantly and this in itself could result in old memory cards becoming valuable collector's items! Incidentally, my 4 megabyte stick still works perfectly, so this might enhance its future value even more!

Comment: I have one of those cards! (your's value just got cut in half). It came with a D8 camera and I thought it was some kind of black magic. This was a few years before I understood what digital cameras were. I hang onto it for nostalgia, but doubt it is worth much. Though, smart media cards are holding strong for capacity vs. cost.

My reply: That's interesting, and I was just about to say that my humble Sony 4mb card must be the only surviving one left in the world! I'm glad to hear that you also hang on to it for nostalgia! We might just have started a new hobby, collecting old memory cards, and that must be at least as interesting as collecting old coins, stamps and matchsticks! But I might just sell mine if the price is right, say $US10,000 as an opening bid, I certainly wouldn't accept anything less than that! Now, I wonder if Sony also manufactured 1, 2, or 3 megabyte memory sticks? If they didn't, this would make our 4mb sticks worth even more!

Comment: I still have 2 MB SM cards (smart media). It's just about the first flash memory card that was around with CF cards. Obviously compact flash cards are still being made but SmartMedia cards morphed into Secure Digital cards.

My reply: Is that the smart media card that was developed by Toshiba? What year did you buy the card and what camera did you use it in? Are you going to keep it in case it could become valuable? From this Wikipedia article, it looks like 4 megabytes was the lowest capacity memory stick that was developed by Sony, so this might one day add to its scarcity value!

According to the above article, Sony’s memory stick was launched by Sony in October 1998. It was available in sizes from 4 MB to 128 MB, but is no longer manufactured. Because I have all of the original memory sticks, that is, 4mb, 8mb, 16mb, 32mb, 64mb and 128mb, I think I will keep them because they make up a full set of Sony’s very first memory sticks.

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