Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

2TB iPod on the way?

CNET’s April 14th article “The ‘500,000-song’ iPod isn’t surprising” caught my attention recently. As the owner of an 80 GB iPod but just a 16 GB iPhone, the desire for additional storage space on a mobile, handheld computer is familiar to me. The article cites a breakthrough by IBM researchers which will increase hard drive capacity by 100 times as well as reduce energy consumption. The summary of this breakthrough (according to the article) is:

So this shorthand would imply a hard drive size of just under 2TB–only 12.5 times bigger than today’s largest iPod.

I recently worked with staff in a school district which has purchased a new video server with over 2 TB of hard drive storage. Yes, that’s right, two terabytes. I first heard about a server with a terabyte of memory when I visited with the son of a professor at Texas Tech a few years ago, who had a RAIDed, homebrew media server with a combined storage capacity of just over a terabyte. At that point, my mind was blown. You mean someone had that much video server storage capacity on a HOME network in 2004? Yes. Now we’re hearing a two terabyte iPod is on the way in a few years, so we’ll be able to hold TWICE that quantity of video storage in the palm of our hands? Yep. Believe the hype. When my elementary age kids are in high school and college, they will likely not believe people ever actually used “floppy disks!”

floppy disk

It is important to note this hard drive research breakthrough does NOT pertain to “solid-state” flash-based digital storage. One basic difference between the iPod Nano, the iPhone, the iPod Shuffle and the “traditional iPod” is that the first three devices (Nano, iPhone, and Shuffle) use flash memory. The “traditional” iPod does not, it uses a mechanical hard drive.

Flash-based and hard drive-based iPods

Flash memory devices are not mechanical, but at this point are MUCH more expensive for a comparable amount of storage capacity. The larger iPod (with the greatest amount of storage capacity) continues to use mechanical drives for storage. For more background on the differences between iPod versions, check out the current WikiPedia article for iPod.

On the subject of floppy disks, remember the 1992 advertisement “Don’t Copy That Floppy?” I was reminded of this video a few weeks ago during one of our Celebrate Oklahoma Voices workshops as we discussed copyright, fair use, and intellectual property issues as they pertain to digital storytelling. The video is available on YouTube. Certainly illegal copying of copyrighted materials remains a concern, but the vocabulary of young people no longer includes the phrase “that floppy.” The Free Software Movement has changed this conversation in basic ways, as has the advent of file sharing. If you use this video as a discussion starter with students or teachers, be sure to point this out!

How much storage will my youngest daughter’s iPhone (or other converged, mobile computer) have when she starts college in 2022? I’m sure that figure would boggle my mind at this point.

I am pretty familiar with Moore’s Law, which focuses on computational processing power, but had not heard of Kryder’s law previously until reading this CNET article. Kryder’s law (according to WikiPedia) states that:

magnetic disk areal storage density doubles annually.

I’d like to see an annual doubling of flash memory storage density. I haven’t read a “law” (or more specifically, an identified pattern of growth postulated to continue into the future) relating to flash memory (NAND Flash) yet. As consumer demand for flash-based mobile devices continues to grow, however, I’m confident we’ll continue to see these solid state storage capacities increase and prices go down, although they may not move as precipitously as those for magnetic storage have and continue to change. Until we see some MAJOR movement in Flash memory prices, solid state hard drives like that available as an optional upgrade on the MacBook Air will remain outside the purchasing power of many people, myself included.

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