It's the year of the terabyte

Apr 01, 2009 By Craig Crossman

I remember my first hard drive. Back then, getting a hard drive for your computer was tantamount to a rite of passage. It meant that you no longer had to struggle inserting floppy discs with their limited capacities and their plethora of assorted frailties. Until my first hard drive, whenever I wanted to load a program, I first had to find the floppy that contained the wanted application, insert it into the disc drive and then wait until it loaded. And wait. And wait.

My first hard drive's capacity was a whopping 20 megabytes and at the time, I thought it was all the storage I would ever need in my entire lifetime. It also cost around $900 and again at the time, I thought it was a steal at that price. Of course, the programs such as the word processor and other productivity applications were so small that they actually fit on a single floppy disc. So a 20-megabyte drive really did represent a bottomless repository for all of my computing needs. But nothing ever stays the same and when it comes to computers, that's a good thing.

The operating systems and the programs our computers had to run continued to grow as they became more feature-rich and graphically intensive. A word processor that was 100 kilobytes swelled to 100 megabytes and more. So capacities grew to meet their storage demands. I remember seeing the first gigabyte hard drives appear and thinking "My gosh! That's a THOUSAND megabytes on one hard drive!" Again I thought that it was all the storage I would ever need in my entire lifetime.

So now we have entered the "Terabyte decade" with a THOUSAND gigabytes of storage on a single hard drive. But I'm no longer taken in with the subterfuge. No longer do these drives hold the promise of all the storage I will ever need. Because now I know that along with my mammoth operating system and bulging applications are the untold quantities of digital data I will be ever generating and collecting such as photographs and high definition videos that promise to eat every single terabyte I can throw at them. So it's a good thing that already there are multi-terabyte drives emerging.

Just like the growing progression of the multi-megabyte and multi-gigabyte drives, terabyte drives begin their growth with baby steps. First to appear after the single terabyte drives have been 1.5-terabyte models and now there are 2-terabyte versions just making it to the market as we speak. Soon we'll see 3-terabyte models and by the end of the year, maybe even a 4-terabyte version?

But capacity isn't the only thing repeating. The dollars you pay to buy them are pretty much in the same range as those drives of yore. As the capacities grow, the purchase price of the smaller capacity models decrease. But I don't think we'll see the prices of even the newest high capacity terabyte models top what those initial megabyte and gigabyte drives cost. For example a top-of-the-line 2-terabyte external hard drive goes for around $180. The former top-of-the-line megabyte model sold for over a $1,000 and gigabyte models around $800 when they first appeared. So it looks like things are getting better as the storage pattern repeats. Who knows? Maybe when the first petabyte drive (that's a thousand terabytes) makes its debut, it will sell for under a hundred bucks. Anyone want to make a bet? I'm also betting that most of us will still be around when that happens. I'll get back to you in a few years and we'll compare notes.

(Craig Crossman is a national newspaper columnist writing about computers and technology. He also hosts the No. 1 daily national computer radio talk show, Computer America, heard on the Business TalkRadio Network and the Lifestyle TalkRadio Network -- Monday through Friday, 10 p.m.-midnight ET. For more information, visit his web site at www.computeramerica.com .)

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(c) 2009, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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User comments : 22

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Corban
5 / 5 (1) Apr 01, 2009
Will petabyte HDDs be like today's plates, or will they truly be holographic, storing thousands of those plates in the slices of material the size of a die?
LuckyBrandon
1.6 / 5 (7) Apr 01, 2009
not holographic...no such thing...you can't store data for any extended period of time within light as far as I know...it does however hold it long enough to pass data along, such as in fiber optic wiring.

Solid state is the next phase...and those are not hard disks as you are used to seeing...they are basically PCI/PCIe cards embedded with a chip that is the actual storage location.
So to answer your question, the plates will be gone and phased out very soon. Solid state just has to get more reliable/dependable before manufacturers will be willing to release the reigns entirely on the old spinning disk platform....
holmstar
5 / 5 (1) Apr 01, 2009
not holographic...no such thing...you can't store data for any extended period of time within light as far as I know...it does however hold it long enough to pass data along, such as in fiber optic wiring.


No... holographic storage just means that the data is stored as a hologram. There would be a physical media that is the substrate of the hologram. You wouldn't have a static field of light or anything like that.
Velanarris
5 / 5 (1) Apr 01, 2009
Basically "holographic" storage is what was referred to as crystaline solid state a few years ago.

You hit the crystal with a beam of light, the chemistry of the crystal changes based on the frequency or amplitude of the beam and remains in that state until cleared. Similar to the magnetic 1's and 0's your drive stores using magnetic flux.
poi
not rated yet Apr 02, 2009
how about...
making a hard drive that has a capacity that is unquantifiable? (the brain as a model for example, or those people with dysfunction that they have a hard time forgetting)
now that would be "storage more than you could ever need."
JayVenter
not rated yet Apr 02, 2009
Solid state just has to get more reliable/dependable before manufacturers will be willing to release the reigns entirely on the old spinning disk platform....


This is not true. Solid State drives are very reliable and a lot faster than Hard Disk Drives using platters. Its just a lot more expensive at the moment to buy a SSD. but the price will come down, as it does with all new tech, and then platter based drives will phase out. Many netbooks and even the macbook air already come as with SSD.
LariAnn
not rated yet Apr 02, 2009
You'll know that SSDs are coming into their own when you can get a flash drive of 1 terabyte for under $100.
CreepyD
not rated yet Apr 02, 2009
Not all SSD's are faster than standard hard drives, some are in fact slower. It depends on the make and model. But yes the fastest ones are ~2.5 times faster than a typical fast hard drive, but are also way more than 2.5 times the price.
Velanarris
not rated yet Apr 02, 2009
Not all SSD's are faster than standard hard drives, some are in fact slower. It depends on the make and model. But yes the fastest ones are ~2.5 times faster than a typical fast hard drive, but are also way more than 2.5 times the price.

Depends on how many you're buying but yeah, price wise they're up there.

A dell 2950 with a TB of SAS or SCSI3 drives runs about 2-5 grand.
With SSD about 50 grand, but that also means a controller swap and a few other incidentals so it's not really a 1 to 1 comparison.
david_42
5 / 5 (1) Apr 02, 2009
As a manufacturer that uses flash chips, I can say they really need to get better. We see cell failures after a few thousand read/write cycles. This problem can be minimized by careful monitoring and locking out bad sectors, but if the boot sectors fail the chip is worthless.

My first hard drive was 5 meg. Which formatted down to 4.3 MB. Price $1500, when you could buy a Volvo for $10,000.
bmcghie
not rated yet Apr 05, 2009
^ Man, I'm glad I wasn't around for those days. :) Can't live without the 1.5MBps line...
Neurohacker2
not rated yet Apr 05, 2009
Hi
Rember the C64
The OS was in a ROM chip.
zbarlici
not rated yet Apr 05, 2009
i`m pretty sure that the PVR`s don`t have a problem filling up the TB`s of memory... esp. if you`re going to record hD content! Bring on the PETA... how much memory does a half-hour 720p show take up?
shyataroo
not rated yet Apr 05, 2009
Its the dawn of the Terra era



http://www.youtub...8oHKZzfo


wave goodbye to the gigabyte...




LuckyBrandon
1 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2009
JayVenter-it is still true....do you really think this first revision of SSD drives are thei shit or something. NO, they will be crap just like IDE drives were at first, and SCSI, and every other type of storage there is. The MAIN thing I was talking about here though is hardware compatibility and cost factors. I should have been clearer on that I suppose. The cost of writing while drunk off my ass :D

SSD will end up ancient technology quickly with the new items on the rise that you guys may have heard of or not...depends on how "techie" you are (I myself am an infrastructure architect with systems engineering, programming, and "field tech" background)
Velanarris
not rated yet Apr 20, 2009
So you haven't used the SSDs yet, have you?



They're pretty damn slick. Not having to even consider spindle load when partitioning, or determining controller load off of spin up time. SSD is phenominal for a lot of applications, like SQL or any sort of grid style app where all your data processing constraints appear at a disk level rather than an app/core/bus level.
LuckyBrandon
3 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2009
Oh dont get me wrong velanarris..I do agree they are a nice piece of technology...much better than the spindle platform. I just don't think they are the future, merely a stepping stone or a tie over until the next thing. I myself am waiting for crystal storage :D

But to be honest, I'm not much of a hardware guy, I've always preferred the software side of the picture myself...albeit I unfortunately have loaded 1000s of servers and desktops in my career (no exaggeration either)..for me thats unfortunate since I never really had much care for the hardware end. I will get into hardware once quantum becomes feasible, if I'm still alive :D
Velanarris
not rated yet Apr 24, 2009
I'm in the same boat as you. Crystaline/chemo-storage is the future.

And don't get me started on how many Server OS disks I've had to spin.
holoman
not rated yet May 13, 2009
Holographics using ferroelectrics / multiferroics has a 100 years data storage shelf life.

Ferromagnetics has max. of 25 years, most only reach
10-15 years before data disintegration.

The FE molecule has a 3 nm cell, non-volatile.

FE molecular internal geometry can be changed infinitely.

Petabytes will be easily reached and beyond.

Less power per byte, faster (optical interface for
data), smaller foot print, cheaper per byte.

They said man couldn't fly, break the sound barrier, will never go to the moon !

GE and others are quietly working in their labs.

Ethelred
5 / 5 (2) Jun 09, 2009
Floppy drives, we used to DREAM of having a floppy drive.

We had to start up the audio tape, type 3d0g, wait ten minutes or till the double beep that signified error, sacrifice a Norwegian Blue, Pray to the Great God Woz, and give then give thanks that we didn't have Trash 80 before we could play that brand new 8 kb game.

And you tell this to the kids of today and they think your a fossil.

Ethelred

QubitTamer

Quantum Physicist, torturer of AGW religious zealots like Ethelred because i laugh at his hysterics.
Velanarris
not rated yet Jun 10, 2009
Ha, I had a punch writer at home. No need to tell me about fossil computing.
Ethelred
5 / 5 (1) Jun 10, 2009
I didn't have a card puncher at home. I used to dream about punching cards.

Nightmares really. At Cal State Long Beach, which then sent the programs over the phone lines to a CDC 3300 at Cal State Fullerton. Then the Tech God in the White Coat would give us a print out that usually turned to involve a control card error.

And God said let there be light, and indeed there would have been but He used the wrong Control Card.

Or so said a friend of mine who got to learn on an IBM 360 with actual hard drives.

Ethelred

QubitTamer

Quantum Physicist, torturer of AGW religious zealots like Ethelred because i laugh at his hysterics.