That's a Whole Lotta Pr0n

John Dvorak on hard drive storage:

Back in 1979 when a 5MB drive (yes, five megabytes!) cost over $1,000, I never imagined I’d someday be paying $50 for a terabyte. What comes after terabyte? Well there’s the petabyte—1,024 terabytes. Then comes the exabyte (1,024 petabytes). Then the zettabyte, followed by the yottabyte. At the rate of growth (no letters, please) beginning with the 1979 5MB drive, we went from a 5MB to a terabyte desktop drive in 30 years. That means an increase in capacity of over 200,000 to 1. And a decrease in price of 10 to 1. I reckon, roughly, that by 2039 we will be looking at having a 200-petabyte drive and it will sell for $10.

My current project is ripping every single one of our DVDs onto a hard drive and into our iTunes library. For really pretty stuff — special effects extravaganzas, period movies, etc — we’ll stick to physical media on Blu-Ray discs. But your typical rom-com or kid’s movie is perfectly fine in DVD resolution. And it’s a lot more convenient to have them accessible from the sofa via the household wifi network and an Apple TV unit. Especially if, like us, you’ve got 1,000+ DVDs taking up valuable real estate in your family room.

So as you can imagine, I’ve spent some serious time pricing hard drives lately. For a thousand movies, you’re looking at about three terabytes of storage, give or take. And that’s not including backups. (Although in this case, your old physical media, tucked into the attic, can be your backups. Not that you’d want to re-rip a couple hundred movies every time you have a hard drive fail.) Six terabytes is a little more money than I want to shell out just now — but that’s OK, because at a movie or two a day, this project is going to take a couple years. At which point, I’ll probably need another two-four terabytes because of how many damn movies we’ll buy in the next 24 months.

If Dvorak is right — hey, it’s happened before — 10 terabytes could go for a couple hundred bucks in the next few years. Which means that, even by my insane needs, storage will be virtually free. DSLR cameras probably won’t go much higher than 24-30 megapixels, you’ll still be able to compress a DVD down to 2-3 gigabytes, and music encoded at a perfectly-acceptable 256 kbps will still take up only about 10MB per song. A petabyte of storage is enough room for thousands and thousands of movies, more pictures than you could ever take and more music than you’ll ever like.

So what’s next? Shrinkage. Get that petabyte onto something the size of a thumb drive, and every bit of entertainment you could ever dream of will dangle off your keychain, playable anywhere.

The future is looking pretty bright.