Did we learn a lesson in the Betamax vs. VHS standards war? Evidently not.

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Did we learn a lesson in the Betamax vs. VHS standards war? Evidently not, since incompatible standards continue to plague the computer and digital-technology worlds. And while DVD has all but replaced tape, we still have to deal with myriad recordable DVD standards.

Time does have a way of working things out, though. Many of the DVD recorders now work with multiple standards, but there are even more on the way.

Incompatibility issues continue in even the newest kinds of media. Take flash memory. Flash memory cards continue to appear in all kinds of devices. Cellphones, computers, PDAs, digital cameras and printers are just some of the many devices that work with or rely upon these tiny flash memory cards that retain megabytes of data without battery power.

Yet there are about 12 different formats out there in the mainstream. And while these cards come in different shapes, sizes and capacities, they all basically do the same thing. Why, oh why, do they keep making different flash memory standards?

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Just to keep you up on the matter, the different flash memory cards are CompactFlash Type I and Type II, SD Card, miniSD, MultiMediaCard, RS-MMC, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo, SmartMedia and xD.

But I have a way for you to deal with all of them at once. It turns out that there is one company that makes all of these flash memory card types. So it wasn’t much of a stretch for them to come up with a single device that can read as well as write to every single one of them. The company is SanDisk and its device is the ImageMate 12-in-1 Reader/Writer.

Actually, SanDisk makes several different ImageMates, but this 12-in-1 model represents its latest effort to consolidate the many flash memory standards.

The ImageMate 12-in-1 Card Reader/Writer is a Hi-Speed USB 2.0 multi-card Reader/Writer that connects to your computer’s USB 2.0 port. I was glad to see that it supports the faster USB 2.0 standard because many of the newer cards can hold gigabytes of data. The faster transfer rate makes working with the slower flash memory cards a lot more tolerable; it is fully backward compatible with the slower USB 1.1.

The ImageMate 12-in-1 also sports a large button to initiate the transfer process. This requires the installation of the included special Windows driver and is not supported on the Macintosh platform. However, the device is fully compatible with the Macintosh OS X operating system, needs no additional software to operate and so it works right out of the box.

An amber power light indicates the ImageMate is receiving power from its USB connection as it needs no separate power adapter. Inserting any of the 12 kinds of flash memory cards lights a corresponding green LED that shows the card is being recognized by the device.

The face of the ImageMate is clearly labeled so you know what kind of memory card plugs into which slot. You can insert more than one card at the same time if you are so inclined. When inserted, an image of the card will appear on your computer’s desktop as a logical device. From there, you treat the data on the card as you would another storage device.

The device comes with its own stand that positions the unit at an optimal angle you can simply let it rest on the table. The ImageMate 12-in-1 Reader/Writer sells for $34.99 and is available from the SanDisk Web site at www.sandisk.com.