data storage radically changing computer landscape
Alan Zisman (c) 2004 First published in Business
26 -November 9-15, 2004; issue 785, High Tech Office
in 1965, Intel
co-founder Gordon Moore noticed that the number of
per integrated circuit had been climbing over time and predicted that
this trend would continue. Moore's Law states that each generation of
computer processors will pack more transistors, making them more
powerful and making computer processing continually faster. As a
result, today's computers can perform more operations than yesterday's
and can do the same operations quicker and cheaper.
original IBM PC ran on an
Intel 8088 processor with 27,000 transistors running at 4.7 MHz.
Today's PC probably uses a Pentium 4 processor with some 42 million
transistors, about 1,500 times as many as its 1981 counterpart, running
at about three GHz, some 600 times faster. Intel suggests that Moore's
Law should remain in effect at least through the end of the decade.
Moore's Law gets all the
publicity, storage capacities have also been rising. My first hard
drive, purchased in 1988 for $400, could store 40 MB of information. By
1998, four GB drives, storing 100 times as much, were common. A 160-GB
drive is standard on this season's 20-inch iMac, offering 4,000 times
the room of my first hard drive. You can buy a 250-GB drive for $300,
and you might be able to find better deals if you shop around.
1988 computer used floppy
diskettes which each held 360 kilobytes of data. (To refresh your
memory, a kilobyte has room for 1,000 typed characters; 1,000 kb = one
megabyte; 1,000 MB = one gigabyte. More or less).
of today's computers can burn
CDs storing some 700 MB of information, the equivalent of about 2,000
floppy diskettes. Many of us have DVD burners making discs that store
up to 4.7 GB, almost seven CDs worth. Drives that can cram more on a
DVD blank disc are starting to appear.
availability of large amounts of
cheap storage is resulting in many changes. Among them:
- Recordable DVDs are
becoming increasingly the medium of choice for home and business data
archiving, whether for recording TV shows or backing up hard drives.
Older tape formats, whether VHS in the home or tape backup drives, will
continue to be used, but they're on the way out.
- Services that store
large amounts of data for users will become increasingly common and
affordable, and in many cases free. For example, Google's
upcoming (and free) gMail service promises a gigabyte of online storage
to users. A year ago, Web mail services like Yahoo Mail, Hotmail,
or the service provided by my local ISP offered about 10 MB of storage
to customers. Pressure from gMail is forcing services to up the amount
they offer customers. Hotmail, for example, is
its users to 250 MB each. Google's service is still in beta-test. To
get an account, you need to be invited by a current user. But the
availability of large amounts of online storage changes the way you use
these services. Now, for example, it becomes practical to e-mail
yourself files so they can be accessed wherever you go.
Flash drives are
increasingly popular as the replacement for floppy diskettes. Sometimes
referred to as thumb drives and using the same sorts of flash memory
used in digital camera memory cards, these are little devices that plug
into computer USB ports, with room for anywhere from 64 to 512 MB. Like
the floppy diskettes of old, they can go anywhere and be used with
virtually any computer.
and cheaper computers changed
the way we did business in the 1980s. Widespread Internet connectivity
changed it again in the 1990s. The availability of massive amounts of
cheap storage is changing it again this decade. Plan accordingly.