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Gift From the Sea

3:30 PM -- SanDisk Corp. (Nasdaq: SNDK) says its engineers managed to retrieve data from memory cards that crashed into the Pacific in a high-altitude weather balloon, then soaked for several days in saltwater before washing ashore in a padded lunchbag.

A group of engineering seniors at the University of California-Santa Cruz despaired of their science project when their helium balloon filled with instruments was taken hostage by the atmospheric conditions it was meant to record. Five days after liftoff, the remains of a digital camera and some telemetry gear (including a SanDisk memory card) were retrieved by a California beachcomber.

Images were found in the camera, but the memory card seemed, well, soaked. SanDisk took the card, scanned it for a week, and was able to retrieve data for the team's report.

Upshot? The students won an award for their research -- and SanDisk had an excuse for a press release in which its CEO coos: "This amazing series of events once again demonstrates the durability of SanDisk's flash memory cards."

But here a plucky reporter asks: Was retrieving the data really that much of a testimony to the memory card? We hate to dash saltwater on SanDisk, but lots of companies say they can get back what's gone into the sea, up in smoke, or out the window -- no matter whose gear it is.

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