Thursday, July 30, 2009

I'll take a trillion, please...

I will never forget the day my dad brought home my first PC. It was an Intel 386, running at 25 MHz, and it had 4 megabytes of RAM and a 52 megabyte hard drive. Up until then I'd only had an Apple ][ clone to play with. The PC, that plain beige box running MS-DOS, was a thing of beauty. Going into eighth grade, it meant so much to me to finally have a real computer! (You need to understand that, in grade 7, I was writing up school assignments on a typewriter. Using WordPerfect was a HUGE step up.) And 52 megabytes of storage was a dream. Back then, files were simpler, smaller, and I could pretty much account for every single one of those 52 million bytes.

But it didn't take long for even 52 million bytes to start getting filled up, and two years later it was time to upgrade. I made a deal with a guy in my grade 10 Manufacturing Technology class (read: welding class). He was a sketchy character, and I never knew if we were friends or enemies -- but today we were doing business. He had a hard drive for sale. 80 megabytes. $80. "A dollar a meg -- that sounds fair, doesn't it?"

That was 15 years ago. Every few years, computer technology kept improving, everyone started amassing more and more files, and I kept buying bigger hard drives. It doesn't seem that long ago that I built a PC with video editing in mind, with a 10 GB main hard drive and 20 GB for data. The interesting thing is how the price points haven't changed much over the years, compared to the leaps and bounds in storage capacity. I paid about $100 for a 160 GB hard drive a couple of years ago. $100 bought me a 250 GB portable USB hard drive last year.

And $100 bought me a 1 terabyte hard drive yesterday. 1 terabyte is 1 trillion bytes. To put it another way, that's almost 20,000 times bigger than that 52 MB drive I owned in 1991. At the 1993 prices of "a dollar a meg", this much storage would have set me back one million dollars.

Conclusion: hard drive storage is 10,000 times cheaper today than it was 15 years ago. And still dropping!

OK, I admit that it's kind of geeky to be fascinated by that.

1 comment: