Cartridge (electronics)

From Academic Kids

In a variety of electronic equipments, a cartridge (in video game terms, cart, game pack, or Game Pak) can be one method of programming different functionality, providing variable content, or a method by which consumables may be replenished. The term cartridge tends to be applied loosely to a large range of techniques which conform to this general description. In general the term tends to mean any detachable sub-unit that is held within its own container. The term cassette has a similar meaning.



A cartridge may be one method of running different software programs within a general purpose computer. This system was popularised by early home computers such as the Commodore 64, where a special bus port was provided for the insertion of cartridges containing software in ROM. This system was pioneered on earlier home TV game systems, and until recently remained a popular approach with modern games consoles. The advantage of cartridges over other approaches such as loading software from other media is that the software is instantly available, with no loading time, and it is held in a very robust and hence damage-resistant form.

Missing image
The Star Fox 64 cartridge for the N64.

From the early 1980s to late 1990s, all home video game systems were cartridge-based. When CD technology came to be used widely for data storage, most hardware companies moved from cartridges to CD-based game systems, since CD-ROMs were much cheaper to produce and could hold more content. Nintendo remained the lone hold-out, and did not create a CD based system until several years later, instead opting to make their "next generation" system, the Nintendo 64, cartridge-based. This move was questioned by many industry insiders, who argued that cartridge-based games could never be as long or complex as CD based games, such as those found on competitor systems like the Sony PlayStation. The economic consequences Nintendo suffered as a result of this gamble are often regarded as marking the end of cartridge-based home gaming systems; in fact the next gaming system Nintendo released, the GameCube, features a DVD-based format. Hand-held systems, however, which Nintendo enjoys a near monopoly over, remained cartridge-based until the release of the Nintendo DS (which uses a proprietary type of flash memory card slightly larger than an American or Canadian quarter) and PlayStation Portable (which uses Universal Media Discs).


One early form of automatic washing machine used cartridges to program different wash cycles. This system, called the Keymatic, used plastic cartridges with key-like slots and ridges around the edges. The cartridge was inserted into a slot on the machine and a mechanical reader operated the machine accordingly. The system did not really take off, since it offered no real advantage over the more conventional program dial, and the cartridges were prone to getting lost. In hindsight it can be seen as a marketing gimmick rather than offering any really useful functionality.


The 8-track audio system is often referred to as the 8-track cartridge. Here, a cartridge contains audio tape, thus providing different content using the same player. The cartridge containing the tape permits ease of handling of the fragile tape, making it far more convenient and robust than having loose tape.

The pickup on modern turntables for playing records is called a cartridge. For more information on this, see magnetic cartridge.


Replacement of consumables is an important use for cartridges. They are typically used in printers to hold the ink in the case of inkjet printers, or toner for laser printers.ja:ロムカセット de:Cartridge


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