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26 August 2012

Today's topic: Wishful Shrinking

Some technologies evolve, some adapt, others transform. Computer technologies seem to do all three and often simultaneously.

Certain aspects of the stuff which constitutes "computing" never seem to change, like the power cord. Oh, it changes color and sometimes the bit we grip is shaped differently than others, but for the most part it stays the same.

The box which houses the internal workings of our computing "devices" has forever changed with the advent of hand held tablet computers but there is a limit to how much this may change, indeed, if not to borrow a pun, perchance to coin a phrase for there's a rule of thumb already in place governing what the industry's best and brightest can and will offer us in future. The human hand isn't likely to change as much in the next 20 years as the "shape" of computing has in the previous two decades which is to say that one has little reason to expect any major shifts in the shape of things to come, at least when pondering tablet devices.

Moving "inside the box" we find everything changes and usually in stages. That's why there's an iPad, iPad 2, iPad 3, etc. The core premise of the device remains constant whereas its internal workings do not. I'm not going to get into a lot of geek speak about how the current iPad differs from the first, so don't worry, you won't need to sit in a dark and quiet room with an ice pack on your brain after reading this, but I am going to compare and contrast state of the art computing storage devices of yesteryear with today's technology, so have the ice pack on stand-by.

"State of the art" is a very malleable phrase. In the photo below we see "states of the art" separated by all of 20 years. I dare say were this blog about pencils you'd have a tough time telling the difference between the two states, but in this case, or perhaps more precisely put, in these cases, the cases which hold the data we've created with our devices, change is abundantly evident.

Floppy and Flash

Left: Macintosh 3 1/2 Floppy Disc: 3 1/2" wide x 3 3/4" long x 1/8" deep, storage capacity: 1.4 MB.

Right: Kingston DTSE9 8 GB Flash Drive: 1/2" wide x 1 1/2" long x 1/8" deep, storage capacity: 8 GB.

Let's put the difference between these two external storage devices into some perspective. Back in the day, in 1992 to be precise, we spoke about most external storage devices in terms of Megabytes or MB. Today we've moved onto Gigabytes and Terabytes, GB and TB, respectively.

In case you've forgotten, in 1992 Windows 3.1 was released by Microsoft, AT & T released video telephone for $1,499, the first Nicotene patch was introduced to help stop smoking, Space Shuttle Endeavour conducted a successful maiden voyage, Peter Gabriel and Genesis (without Peter Gabriel) were pop culture icons, Batman Returns arrived on the big screen, while One Foot in the Grave (UK), Home Improvement, Rugrats, The Ren & Stimpy Show and Star Trek: The Next Generation were amongst the most popular TV shows.

By the way, how much did you pay for your last video phone? Good luck putting the 1992 version in your pocket: AT&T VideoPhone 2500

Back to the future, or rather the present... 16 (that's sixteen) Kingston DTSE9 8 GB Flash Drives fit in the same space as 1 floppy. Those 16 drives store a total of 128 GB. It would take 93,622 floppy discs to store 128 GB of data, that's nearly one hundred thousand discs... 100,000 discs!

Misplacing a single floppy disc wasn't all that difficult. Losing a collection of them, well, that took a bit more skill, however how much skill was relative to the number of discs constituting the collection. To some folks, more than one of any given thing is a collection, but I digress... half a dozen discs were as easy to misplace as a single disc, however losing a few dozen or even a hundred of them required initiative. The same can not be said of flash drives, today's equivalent to the floppy. Flash drives are getting smaller and smaller all the time. The only limiting factor to how small they may become is for the moment controlled by the manner in which we connect them to our devices and at present, that's via a USB port. It has fixed dimensions.

You learned a lot about organization if you entered the digital age during the floppy era. Quaint and archaic tools like the alphabet and the ink pen became your best friends, otherwise you'd quickly discover what insanity felt like, that is, if you failed to label your discs. But it was easy after awhile, wasn't it? Labeling and sorting became second nature (the subject of a future blog) which is to say we each developed our own way of sorting what we stored so that we could find and use it later. For some of us, creation of large files complicated matters yet again in that this "necessary evil" invaded our space, the final frontier... or perhaps better put, the challenge was to sort and store all of those discs in such a way that we could not only get to them, get through them, find what we were looking for, put it to use and then put all of it back (in the same order) in as little time as possible without losing our sanity in the process. *snarky grin*

In summary...
The floppy disc era posed the age old dilemma, "Where will I put them?"
The flash drive era presents a new age dilemma, "Where did I put that?"

So be careful what you wish for, you may just get it... and then be unable to find it! That's my take on the floppy to flash phenomena.

Until next time...

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