Now entering the expanding gigaworld

Appetite for music and videos fueling increased demand for storage space

Science & Technology

March 28, 2004|By John Moran | John Moran,Hartford Courant

In the attic, in the garage, in the shed or in the basement, you just can't have too much storage. The same goes for personal computing.

It's long past the days when we marveled about how quickly we filled up those once seemingly bottomless 1-, 2- and 5-gigabyte hard drives.

The reality is that having available hard-drive space is only a temporary condition. No matter how big a new drive is, you'll find a way to fill it -- and probably quite soon.

What's gobbling up the gigabytes is data. E-mail, digital photos, song files and, increasingly, digital video are migrating to the hard drive.

Fortunately, hard-drive makers are keeping up with our voracious appetite for storage. The latest hard drives offer acres of space at prices once reserved for a box of floppy disks.

For larger drives, prices have dropped below the $1-a-gigabyte level and are continuing to fall. Just this month, retailers were advertising a 200-gigabyte drive for $130.

As usual, that sounds bottomless. What, you may wonder, could anyone possibly do with 200 gigabytes?

Digital cameras, which once took 1-megapixel photos, now are growing in popularity in the 5-megapixel category. Yes, the photos are much more detailed than before. They're also five times as big.

Meanwhile, the explosion in digital music continues. Apple Computer last week announced that its iTunes online music service has marked its 50 millionth song download.

But the real storage killer is digital video. The rule of thumb is that an hour's worth of digital video occupies about 13 gigabytes of space. So that "bottomless" 200-gigabyte drive would hold only about 15 hours of programming -- or about a season's worth of The Sopranos.

Sure, you'll be burning that stuff onto DVD for long-term storage eventually. But meanwhile, having a couple of hundred gigabytes available could come in handy, especially if you're dealing with home videos that may need editing.

The arrival of more storage brings with it all the usual concerns about how to keep that data safely backed up in case of disaster. But this problem could eventually solve itself.

If a 200-gigabyte hard drive costs a mere $130, why not simply buy two and use one to mirror the other? If only you could expand the size of your garage as easily.

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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