November 6

Astounding Growth of Data in my lifetime

At the IOD conference this year the volumes of data discussed were amazing.  I’ve been thinking about how much the volumes of storage have grown in my own lifetime.  I remember my first exposures to computers – both at home and at school.  I remember my dad building a personal computer and using a tape recorder (i.e  cassette tape) to store data.  The Apple IIes at school we’re more advanced – as they had the early 5 1/4 inch floppy drives.  I remember one of my first IBM compatible (MS-DOS) PCs that I used for a while – in that it didn’t even have a hard drive initially. It had a 3 1/2 inch floppy drive that you booted from first – and then used a different disk to store data.  Getting my first hard drive was really cool – but I can’t remember how big it was – but it was likely close to 500 megabytes.

Today we’re starting to measure data not in megabytes or gigabytes – but in petabytes and zetabytes (and soon yottabytes).  For understanding here are some basic definitions:

  • kilobyte  - 1024 bytes
  • megabyte - 1000 kilobytes (1,024,000 bytes)
  • gigabyte – 1000 megabytes (1,024,000,000 bytes)
  • petabyte - 1000 gigabytes (1,024,000,000,000 bytes)
  • zetabyte - 1000 petabytes (1,024,000,000,000,000 bytes)

Another way to put this in perspective is to compare these numbers to the storage objects that I’ve encountered in my lifetime.  For example,

  • Remember those 3 1/2 inch disks (see picture above)?  They held 1.4  megabytes – which was a good amount in the early to mid 1990′s when I was in high school and college
  • For backup I had an Iomega Zip Drive – essentially a removable hard drive.  These had a capacity of 100 megabytes - which meant a few of these disks could back up an entire hard drive at the time (which we’re probably around 500 megabytes)
  • CDs typically held about 700 megabytes and we’re in most cases read only.
  • DVDs can hold up to 4.7 gigabytes of data (which at the time seemed a lot).
  • I have an inexpensive USB flash stick – which holds about 4 gigabytes itself (which are now less than $10)
  • You can buy a 2 terabyte hard drive now at MicroCenter for $99.
So how any of these would you need to contain a petabyte of data?
  •  500 2 terabyte hard drives (1000 terabytes / 2 = 500)
  • 212, 766 DVDs (1000 terabytes x 1000 gigabytes / 4.7 gigabytes = 212766)
  • 250,000 4 gigabyte USB sticks (1000 terabytes x 1000 gigabytes / 4 gigabytes = 250,000)
  • 1,428,571 CDs (1000 terabytes x 1000 gigabytes x 1000 megabytes / 700 megabytes = 1428571)
  • 10,000,000 Iomega 100 megabyte ZIP disks (1000 terabytes x 1000 gigabytes x 1000 megabytes / 100 megabytes = 10000000)
  • 694,444,444 3 1/2 inch disk drives (1000 terabytes x 1000 gigabytes x 1000 megabytes / 1.44 megabytes = 694444444)
Another way to think of it is how much video is a petabyte.  My Sony digital camera takes 1080 AVCHD video – which takes up 1.2 megabyte of disk space for every second of video.  So a 1 minute video (60 seconds) uses 72 megabytes of space.  A petabyte is 1,000,000 megabytes so a petabyte can consist of over 13, 800 minutes of that video (231 hours).
So personally I’m astounded by how much more disk space is available now than when I remember.  What’s also amazing is how we can fill up that space (including me).  I had a 500 gigabyte hard drive in my desktop computer (which is really just used to centrally store data) that I thought was quite large when I bought it a few years ago.  Earlier this year I ended up buying a 1 terabyte hard drive to replace it – as pictures and video we’re starting to fill it up.  I personally think it will be an interesting race between how fast we can develop affordable storage vs. how fast we can generate data to fill that up.
For nostalgia purposes here are some pictures of the items mentioned above:
October 21

IBM IOD – Getting there – the journey – #ibmiod

Well, I’m now at IOD – after a bit of journey here.  Actually the plane flight was nice and simple albeit loud.  I think next time I may not sit over the wing.  Got a bit of reading and started an audio book – so that was nice.  It’s vegas itself that’s a bit overwhelming – as this place seems to be the land of over stimulation.  Getting to my bags after the plan was quite a journey – as I think it was half a mile from the gate to the baggage claim.  I kept looking at the signs and expecting it to be there – but it was further on.   Given the distance I wasn’t surprised my bag was already there.

I took a shuttle from the airport to the hotel – which was another journey. I think it took over a half hour – but it was an interesting drive for someone who’s never been to Vegas before.   As the plane was landing I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore when I saw the palm trees (I grew up in the midwest so I’m used to Oaks, Maples, Cedar, etc.).  Maybe all the slot machines in the airport should have also been a clue.  The hotel was much the same – as I had to walk across the casino to get to registration.  Somehow I ended up on the 13th floor of the hotel – which surprised me as many building will not have a 13th floor.

After getting situated in my room and getting a snack (from a McDonalds that surprisingly served Pepsi) I rested for a few minutes while watching the end of a football game (at least I though it was the end of a football game but it went into overtime).  So it was off to Mandalay Bay for the conference.  From the Excalibur it was quite an interesting (and somewhat long) walk.  It was another case of stimulus overload walking through the different casinos and all the shops along the way.

I did make it though – and was grateful for the help from the colorfully dressed “IOD” people – who we’re pointing the way.  I got registered (which came with more stuff than I expected) and put on my “name” badge.  I managed to find my way up to the “Connect” lounge (at the top of what is probably the longest and highest escalator I’ve ever seen).  I’ll write more later about my initial experiences with the conference itself.

October 21

At the airport – food pricey #ibmiod

I’m at the airport getting lunch – forgot how expensive the food is here. Been about 5 years since I’ve flown so it’s almost a new experience. I have to say baggage check-in was smooth and easy. KCI is odd that the departure gates are in a separate security area from the rest of the airport. At least now they have facilities within the area – used to be nothing – not even a bathroom.

Be strange to leave the family also – haven’t done that in a while – especially not 3 kids. They will miss me – as this is new for them. Figure my son is getting a kick out of seeing the planes (I did as a kid).

I’ve been writing this while waiting in line – only 2 people working at the burger King (now that I write that I see a third).

October 4

Book Review: The Value of Nothing by Raj Patel

When I picked up “The Value of Nothing – How to reshape market society and redefine democracy” by Raj Patel – I was thinking it was about the ‘free’ economy – which the web is famous for.  I thought the premise was that a price does not always equate to value.  Because it’s true that just because something doesn’t have a high price it can still have significant value.

This book was not that – it was a argument against much of the market economy.  Frankly capitalism and the market economy has some issues which the recesion made clear.  This book was a history lesson in economics – much of an argument against our current economic system.

This was a hard book to read as it was both not what I was expecting and it felt way out there.  That said I felt it was important to finish the book – as I think it’s important that we hear opposing points of view – who knows – we may learn something.  We still don’t have to agree – but we can seek to understand.

Toward the end of the book there was interesting examples of modern participatory democracy.  One of the interesting points they made was that consensus takes time – and is messy.  I think that applies to life and business – as consensus does take time – even if it’s best.

So I’d have a hard time recommending this book – except for the fact to challenge yourself..