Aardvark DailyNew Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 18th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.
Content copyright © 1995 - 2013 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at aardvark.co.uk
Please visit the sponsor!
I ordered some spare microSD cards the other day.
They were 16GB class 10 cards although, having sourced them from China, I won't be convinced of their actual storage capacity or speed until I've had a chance to test them.
However, it's pretty hard not to be totally blown away at the storage density these tiny fingernail-sized bits of silicon offer.
As someone who was their at the very start of the microcomputer revolution, I recall those big hard-sectored 128Kbyte eight-inch floppy drives that, for their day, offered what seemed to be a massive amount of storage.
Well these little microSD cards can store 128,000 times as much data in about one thousandth the physical volume. That's an improvement in data density of about 128 million times!
You can do your own math for the 32GB or 64GB cards.
Then there's the difference in access speed - with the microSD winning hands-down over its ancient whirly-spinny floppy ancestor.
I'm sure someone can do the math to work out the reduction in storage costs on a per-bit basis but that's probably even more astonishing than the other figures.
It's funny how, every time a new storage technology comes along, we tend to think "wow, how will I ever run out of space now" -- yet we do.
I recall fitting my first floppy drive and thinking "wow" -- only to discover that within a few short months I had a shelf filled with disks.
Then I upgraded to quad-density 5.25" drives and had 1.6MB per disk. That was a lot of storage back in the 8-bit days of CP/M. Sure enough however, another shelf became filled with smaller boxes of disks.
The 8MB 8-inch hard drive which took up almost an entire desktop was my next "wow" acquisition and I marveled at its capacity and speed for quite some time.
Soon it was 20MB drives RLL'd to 30MB and eventually I bought my first 100MB drive.
The 100MB "Zip Drive" also appeared around that time and until they suffered "the click of death" we all enjoyed the fact that a box of 10 disks would hold a gigabyte -- big "wow"!
Next came the milestone of the 1GB hard drive and the issues revolving around how such a huge amount of storage could be backed up -- CDR to the rescue of course!
The next big jump in storage was probably the DVDR/RW and the almost 5GB it offered.
Of course when 1TB (and larger) hard-drives came along, that 5GB of removable storage began to look rather paltry.
Storage has never been cheaper or smaller - and this trend is certain to continue for the foreseeable future.
We've already reached the point with solid-state storage where, in many applications, the concept of hard-drives or removable disks has become just a memory.
For example, the new video camera I picked up a couple of months ago has 96GB of flash memory built into it. No disk, no tape, not even a hard drive -- it's 100% solid-state.
Ninety-six gigabytes is a hell of a lot of memory and it allows for many hours of HD video recording at 1080p with 50fps. What's more, because there are no whirly-spinny bits inside, a tiny battery gives at least 90 minutes of operation.
With judicious use of some good quality compression, I expect that most people could easily fit their entire music collection onto a single microSD card these days -- with room to spare. To the music industry's disgust, the contents of that card can also be duplicated with ease in just a few minutes.
However, I'm sure that the question on everyone's lips is "where to from here?"
Apparently we are reaching the limits of conventional flash-based memory, in terms of density and speed so either our memory cards will get bigger or some new kind of technology will appear.
Personally, I find it hard to understand why anyone would find the microSD format to be too bulky, even when storing hundreds of GB of data -- which is, I suspect, more than most people will need for a lifetime's collection of everything but HD video.
Interestingly enough, the long promised 3D optical storage seems to have never really appeared -- probably usurped (at least for the time being) by the massive collapse of flash-RAM prices.
Just as I have thought each time I've drooled over the latest storage technology, I'm left wondering again "what on earth will I ever use all that storage for" -- however I drool in the full knowledge that pretty soon I'll be seeking out faster, smaller, higher-capacity ways to store my data.
Please visit the sponsor!
Oh, and don't forget today's sci/tech news headlines
Remember, this is purely a gift, you'll get nothing other than a warm fuzzy feeling in return.