Digital Storage & the Second Gutenberg

n response to Wretchard’s post regarding the Second Gutenberg Revolution, I would submit that there is no need to worry about books as containers for human thought/history. Given the continually accelerating and exponentially declining cost of digital storage, I-Pods and similar devices with terabyte and petabyte storage capabilities are just around the corner.  Consequently, it will soon be as easy for people to carry the Library of Congress plus the entire historical catalog of recorded music as it is to carry one’s cell phone.  The Library of Congress would require approximately 80 terabytes of storage capacity, which at today’s cost of approximately $.40/GB, would cost about $30,000. Continued progression down this cost curve is certain, short of nuclear war, which means that the price/GB for data storage in 5 years will be under $.02/GB, at which point the Library could be stored for $1600. Another five years and the cost will be $1/TB (terabyte), or $80.  Remember, an I-Pod is essentially a hard drive with earphones, and now a small video monitor, attached.  Over 2 billion people currently own cell phones, and assuming trends for the last five years continue,  that number will exceed 3 billion by 2010. The rate of decline in storage costs blows away the rate of decline in either cell phone costs or cost/minute of call time, so you can see where its all headed (eg, Apple’s announcement yesterday re: movie downloads).  If your find these figures hard to fathom, remember that the first IBM PC included 64 MB of RAM; the current PC standard is 1 GB.  Future archaelogists should not have to look too hard to find these devices. Furthermore, Google has already scanned all non-copyright protected books into its database, and others will follow suit.  Finally, for those who don’t know about it, the Internet Archives (aka Wayback Machine) already contains an impressive database of historical Internet pageviews, music and other digital information (including most of the live performances of the Grateful Dead in high quality audio format).  Check it out!

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