Business Today

A storage question

Data storage has never been smaller.

Kushan Mitra | Print Edition: August 24, 2008

When the first relatively inexpensive flash memory units came out a decade ago, several competing formats battled to get to the top of the pile. Easily removable storage was a catalyst in the development of several consumer electronic products— especially digital cameras.

The Secure Digital (SD) card format quickly moved to the top of the pile. Today, professional photographers, including those on this magazine’s staff, have memory cards so large that they can almost keep on shooting for ever.

But the last few years have again seen a change in the form factor, and the rise of the micro-SD card. The micro-SD format is impressive because it is so small, barely the size of a fingernail. Several mobile phone manufacturers now have micro-SD slots on their devices. However, Sony sticks with its proprietary Memory Stick (MS) format, but even that has been shrunk.

But when the leader in flash memory, SanDisk, recently launched its 8 gigabyte micro-SD card, you could not help but be amazed. The picture on this page only gives you an idea of how small this card is. The fact that you can store 2,000 average MP3 tracks on something this minute is, frankly, mind-boggling— especially for someone who, remembers a time in the not-so-recent past, when having a 1 gigabyte computer hard-disc was seen as a big deal (and cost over Rs 10,000).

A micro-SD card is 15x10 millimetres. Even if you consider the three-and-a-half inch 1.44 megabyte hard floppies, which some of your desktops might still have a drive for, a micro-SD card is less than 2 per cent of the size of such a floppy—and has 5,555 times the storage capacity with a lot faster data access. And the SanDisk people are promising that before the year is out they will have a micro-SD card with 16 gigabytes of storage.

Even removable storage is getting more ridiculous. Sony has introduced Vaio laptops with Blu-Ray disc writers. You can buy blank Blu-Ray discs from Moser-Baer (though they still cost around Rs 500 each against Rs 10 for a regular CD) which can store 50 gigabytes of data. You will need 72 compact discs to store that kind of information. You can also buy a 500 gigabyte powered external hard-drive from Western Digital for Rs 4,200.

And you know the surprising thing? No matter how big the geeks make the storage devices, we will always find junk to dump in them. The amount of data in this world is expected to double every 11 hours by 2010. People are not talking of terabytes anymore, the talk is of petabytes (one million gigabyes or 125 million MP3s as a reference point) and exobytes (one billion gigabytes— enough to store every single song ever recorded). Maybe, in 10 years from now, your columnist will be amazed that companies are shoving in a few exobytes onto something the size of a human hair.

Who knows?

Cool? Hmmm…

There’s a new search engine in town.

What was the first thing that several of us in Business Today searched for on Cuil ( pronounced ‘cool’ according to its founders), the new web search engine that supposedly indexes 120 billion pages on the web? Ourselves! No, really. And the consensus opinion is that Cuil is rather, well, cool. So much so, that this writer added it to his Firefox browser’s search bar.

The three-column search result layout with images displayed by the side is pretty nifty, as is the black homepage. However, the search engine does not work that well, as yet, on more generic search terms—we tried “India Media Blogs” and Cuil was completely off the mark. Again with “Global Data Capacity”, Google (Sorry, Microsoft and Yahoo, Google is the yardstick) delivered better results.

But when it came to our names, Cuil was a lot better. Maybe they have something going right there.


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