When the floppy drive became a relic of the 20th century, its obsolescence left many of us scratching our heads. If our fancy new laptops lacked floppy drives, how would we exchange files? IBM has the answer, and its new gadget makes a heck of an event marketing giveaway. The company whose name was once inseparable from the abbreviation “PC” has shrunk the floppy disk and disk drive into a single device called an IBM Memory Key.

“It's extremely cool,” says Don Cox, IBM options product manager, Personal Computing Division in Research Triangle, N.C. “We, along with others, were looking for a floppy disk replacement or for a way to do without one. It's a very simple application.” The IBM Memory Key plugs into any USB port — PC or Macintosh. It uploads or downloads files up to 32MB (equal to 22 1.44 MB disks) in seconds.

“This has been one of our most popular options for giveaways to our own employees and customers,” Cox says. “We use these in our sales force meetings. … If there's something on your computer of interest to fellow participants, you can save it on your Memory Key by dragging and dropping.”

IBM Memory Keys use the same technology as compact flash memory disks in digital cameras. The original IBM Memory Key, released in early 2001, holds 8MB and costs $25. By midyear, a 32MB version was released costing $89. Cox says a 128MB version isn't far off. As memory increases, expect prices to fall.