It’s a digital world out there, and the key to our survival, in my opinion, is not processing power. It’s data storage. Once all the numbers have been crunched, all the images have been gathered, and all the test results have been compiled, you need to store them somewhere. Somewhere safe, because unlike former means of recording and storing data — e.g. paper, papyrus scrolls, stone tablets — digital data is frighteningly vulnerable. One slip of the finger on a keyboard and it could be gone forever, so most people now keep multiple copies of everything, just to be safe.

What made me think of this was an announcement this week that the University of California’s San Diego Supercomputer Center

(SDSC) just completed a massive upgrade to their tape-based data archival storage system, increasing the total capacity to a whopping 36 petabytes. For those of you without a calculator — or PhD in mathematics — that’s 36 thousand trillion bytes of data! And yes, that does give them bragging rights over every other institute of higher learning in the world. So who cares if they don’t have a football team?

My first computer, an Epson NB3 “portable” PC that weighed close to 6 pounds, came with a 20 MB hard drive, and I remember telling my wife, “I’ll never fill that.” Recently she got so sick of listening to me complain about data storage issues, she went out and bought me a flash drive. Not just any flash drive, mind you; this is the mother of all flash drives! Made by a company called Super Talent Technology the Luxio holds a full 64 GB of data. In my pocket! Not as impressive as San Diego’s setup, perhaps, but it’s a lot bigger than anything my friends have.

Who says size doesn’t matter?