January 27, 2003
What Will Be on My Laptop's Hard Disk in 2010?

What will be on my laptop's hard disk in 2010? I can't help but think that the answer to that is going to be "everything."


Jinn of Quality and Risk (2003-Jan-27): Western Digital today announced that it is shipping its next-generation 80 GB-per-platter technology, which yields PC hard drives that can store up to 250 GB. 120 BG disks cost about $150, while 250 GB cost $400; that's enough space for 30,000 respectively 60,000 CD-quality songs, or 10-20 days of non-stop music. By 2010, it's likely to be one thousand times more, i.e. one disk will have room for 30-60 years of non-stop music... or 40,000 DVD-quality movies...

Posted by DeLong at January 27, 2003 06:44 PM | Trackback

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The bigger question is: What on my laptop's hard disk is going to be adequately backed up in 2010?

Posted by: Jon H on January 27, 2003 07:18 PM

Well, if the solution to the blogger's problem of "linkrot" is to back every-damn-thing up in full, then at least it's good to know there'll be space to!

Posted by: Michael Harris on January 27, 2003 09:24 PM

Backing up will be easier than ever before: just buy a second drive and back up to that.

Posted by: John O on January 27, 2003 09:36 PM

Backing up will be easier than ever before: just buy a second drive and back up to that.

Posted by: John O on January 27, 2003 09:36 PM

capasity for 30 years of music or 40,000 movies- yes. except it'll be illegal to put anything on it.

Posted by: quinn norton on January 27, 2003 09:55 PM

you will have a kind of browser/viewer and everything will be on the net.

Posted by: Hans Suter on January 28, 2003 02:17 AM

Thirty years of music!!!!??? Great, now the kids will never come out of their room.

Posted by: K Harris on January 28, 2003 04:14 AM

It won't be illegal, because the law will have to change in order to adapt to new possibilities and behaviours (imagine that all computer users have the complete works of Louis Armstrong on their local drive -- who will prosecute the whole world?). It may be a somewhat painful transition.

A related change will be the return to private ("amateur") art productions. The days of movie and music conglomerates are counted, because there will be completely new ways of selling art works, discovering them, and sharing them. Filtering and praising will take place _after_ production, not before. Think of it as free markets and emergent social evaluation of the arts, versus today's media oligopolies and centralised choices (teen-oriented, short-lived fashion).

Finally, there is a major difference with the book industry -- most people can't stand reading on a computer screen, while streaming songs and movies to whatever neighbouring home theater/hi-fi/TV is a completely natural step.

Posted by: Jinn of Quality and Risk on January 28, 2003 04:19 AM

John O: that just moves the single point of failure higher up. True story: a few years back, I bought two hard disks and backed up my data to both of them. Then my PC's hard disk controller failed and fried both disks. :)

Posted by: Neel Krishnaswami on January 28, 2003 05:47 AM

What will be on the average teenage male's hard drive in 2010?

Lots, and lots, and lots, and lots, and lots of porn.

Posted by: Paul on January 28, 2003 06:00 AM

we will have *everything* on our hard drives but will be able to actually *find* very little.

much like my hard drive today. i have more directories than i know what to do with and i have to run a search to find anything. i cannot even begin to clean up stuff - some of it is so old, i don't know if i need it.

*sigh*

Posted by: Suresh krishnamoorthy on January 28, 2003 07:44 AM

I think the question is this one: Will it make sense to store that much information on a hard disk? Even if it's music? As the time you need to look through/listen to/... the amount of information stored approaches your own life time won't those huge disks make information more or less meaningless? How will humans process the information?

Posted by: Joerg Colberg on January 28, 2003 08:40 AM

Jörg, have you used Google and/or an iPod? information is easy to find if one has the right tools available.

Posted by: Jinn of Quality and Risk on January 28, 2003 09:10 AM

"I think the question is this one: Will it make sense to store that much information on a hard disk? Even if it's music? As the time you need to look through/listen to/... the amount of information stored approaches your own life time won't those huge disks make information more or less meaningless? How will humans process the information? "

Maybe we won't fill it up with music. But then we go to movies, and other richer sorts of content - content where much larger numbers of bits get enjoyed/processed by the human per second. Keep scaling that up to full-scale virtual worlds and beyond to I don't know what.

Don't worry. We'll find a use for all that space.

Posted by: Ken on January 28, 2003 10:13 AM

The rate at which digital stuff grows seems to be less than the rate at which digital space grows.

My assumption a few years back was that files would find a way to fill the space. Now I'm not so sure.... I have more space than I know what to do with. (Alas, until I get to video, but my video space problems will be resolved in a couple of years.)

I also assumed that processing speed would get so fast that midrange machines would make the most sense economically, without much sacrifice. (This is now true.)

The point being, I suspect that innovation will stall in certain areas by 2010. There will always be a market for the best/fastest/etc., but I think the lust for the really big will begin to wane when really big is big enough.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on January 28, 2003 10:48 AM

@ Jinn

"It won't be illegal, because the law will have to change [...] who will prosecute the whole world?). It may be a somewhat painful transition."

I believe the last sentence of the above quote is seriously understating the social and economic risk the combination of electronic eavesdropping and institutionalised antiquated concepts of property pose for liberal societies in the years ahead.

There are people who believe that it won't be necessary to prosecute the whole world, but that it will be sufficient to police it. There are people who believe that property rights can be extended even further because technology allows control and courts all over the world seem to be willing to sacrifice civil liberties on the altar of protecting property the way they know it.

Legal orders might well become efficient for the digital age one day - in a land, far, far away and a time far, far ahead. But on the other hand, there is no guarantee for that.

Seriously, I suppose it's going to be a very painful struggle.

Posted by: Tobias on January 28, 2003 11:10 AM

"My assumption a few years back was that files would find a way to fill the space. Now I'm not so sure.... I have more space than I know what to do with. (Alas, until I get to video, but my video space problems will be resolved in a couple of years"

I thought that way too, before Kazaa, Scour, and Win MX.

Posted by: Paul on January 28, 2003 11:28 AM

Of course, this also means that you will be able to store what's on your laptop today on a much smaller device. So it might be that the main result of increases in storage capacity will be greater portability, not greater volumes, of stored data.

This implies something better than laptops - lighter, smaller, needing less power, able to leap tall buildings, etc. And this in turn suggests the need for input devices and screens that are both smaller than current ones and usable by grownup eyes and fingers.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov on January 28, 2003 12:14 PM

Jinn, first of all, I think you're vastly overestimating the value of search engines like Google. Plus, what I said doesn't really have too much to do with anything like Google. Imagine somebody stores thousands and thousands of images or movies taken with a digital camera on his hard disk. Will he ever look at them again? Wired has a short article this month about how some people create enormous amounts of data with their camcorders, reaching the limit where it actually takes so much time to look at all the stuff that it's becoming absurd. Plus, the more space people have the less likely they're going to delete stuff they don't want or like. Therefore, the signal-to-noise ratio is increasing. Thus, it's not a matter of finding information - even though that's highly non-trivial, too; Google doesn't even scratch the surface of what an intelligent search engine would do - it's a question of being able to process the relevant information.

Posted by: Joerg on January 28, 2003 12:31 PM

Actually, Joerg, you answered Saam Barrager's question with your own: we will use ludicrous amounts of computer power to do visual feature recognition and automatic indexing of all the images and video we take.

Right now, it's almost feasible to record the audio of everything we do, run it through a speech-to-text converter, and then use the text to index the audio for search. Five or ten years from now, we can do that for video. Imagine what happens when everything we do is backed up, and you can query your computer with "What exactly did I promise my wife last night?" and get back a replay.

The very nature of memory changes....

Posted by: Neel Krishnaswami on January 28, 2003 05:04 PM

How many sonds does it take to play for 24h? I thought 2 minutes per song, 720 songs, so 30,000 songs should suffice for 40 days, not 10.

I guess that as memory becomes cheaper, the applications become more wasteful with memory use. Thus by 2010 it will take 100GHz (1000GHz?) machine a full week (or at least hours) to start a browser.

People will need 50-100 Gbytes of RAM just to run the basic browser/e-mail/office programs.

Posted by: Piotr Berman on January 28, 2003 05:12 PM

Piotr,

Considering what would be expected from such a program, such required RAM wouldn't be surprising:

1) As mentioned by Neel, voice and video indexing.

2) Really good context matching, so that if something is important to you, it will be flagged appropriately, and brought to you with the matching materials, from your storage and the net.

3) A level of anti-spam which would be able to b*tch-slap any AI from any SF novel with contemptuous ease.

4) (Unfortunately) a frightening level of 'property protection' licenseware.


As to RAM itself, that should be incredibly cheap ($1 US/gigabyte?).

Posted by: Barry on January 29, 2003 06:14 AM

"What will be on my laptop's hard disk in 2010?"

Civilization V?

Posted by: rea on January 30, 2003 08:07 AM
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