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Massive hard drives of today will become too small tomorrow

March 6, 2012 - Art Smith
For the last 25 years or so I have been amazed at how big hard drives are when I buy a new computer and then equally amazed at how quickly they fill up and become “small” by the standard of the day.

The first personal computer I used was a Macintosh Plus. When it arrived at the newspaper we were amazed at the huge 20-megabyte hard drive that was purchased with it. Costing $1,000 in 1985, the drive had four times more storage than the entire computer system used to put out the newspaper. The average song on your ipod is about 1.5 megabytes. By today’s standard that drive would hold about 12 songs, or about a vinyl album’s worth of music.

For years most hard drives were measured in megabytes. The standard of the day slowly grew. The second computer I had I believe had a 300-megabyte drive. Storage sizes slowly crept past the 1,000 mark. When drive reached 1,080 megabytes, the unit of gigabytes was used. 1,024 megabytes equals one gigabytes.

A one-gigabyte drive will hold around 800 songs. Gigabyte grew until the standard drives were around 250gb.

It is here where my latest Mac sits. Loaded with the family photos and the music of two generations, the drive has been sluggish as of late.

Since it appeared sick, I had it looked at by an expert. The computer was in need of a transplant.

Looking at the standard of today I was once again amazed at how big hard drives have become. When you reach 1024 gigabytes the unit switches to terabytes. The standard of today is two terabytes. A two-terabyte drive also could be called a 2,048,000-megabyte drive and is big enough to hold more than 1.4 million songs.

So the drive purchased today is 100,000 bigger than the one used 25 years ago, is a fraction of the size and is about 18 percent of the cost of the “huge” drive of 1985.

I joked the other day that I really don’t see how I will ever fill such a huge drive, knowing full well that in a few years I will be shopping to replace the tiny terabyte drive with the latest petabyte drive. A petabyte drive will, of course, hold 1,024 terabytes. There aren’t any consumer petabyte drives on the market yet, but when there is, I am sure I will find a way to fill it up.


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