Thursday, March 27, 2008

How Much Is Enough?

Not all that long ago, or so it seems to me, I built the first computer available for home users. My IMSI 8080 was THE big thing among us technology nuts. We were no longer tied to using a terminal hooked to a mainframe. You flipped switches on the face plate to program it and it was heaven.

Then came more advanced computer components and power. I had to have them too. The storage memory was on cassette tapes and the onboard RAM was just enough to designate the three zeros in its number to "K". Wow!

Here I am now, with more processing power in my personal workstation than mainframes used to enjoy. I have two-plus terrabytes of hard drive storage and constantly worry about running out of storage space.

What kind of crazy am I? How does one person doing mainly family history research collect enough data to fill two terrabytes of disk space? Well, it has taken a me a while and I may be a little abnormal in the size of my data collection, but I was also the guy who built an IMSI 8080 and am only slightly ahead of most users today.

In short order, you'll wonder how you survived with a only a terrabyte of storage on your computer. Because of the tools and toys now available, you'll quickly morph into a new digital consumer and producer in the coming year or two. You'll take digital photos at a prodigious rate. You'll scan or receive digital copies of all of those family photos and documents that should be associated with your family history. Additionally, your family history data will grow rapidly now that so many researchers are collaborating on their research.

When thinking about your digital storage needs, don't forget to include those great digital movies you are taking of your family, grandkids, trips and for us hard core types, tours of family headstones and homesteads all over the world.

One of my personal family history websites was disabled this week because the volume of viewers made it too busy for my host to handle. I'll have to update to more efficient code to resolve the problem. How long will that fix last as I continue to add content and even more users from around the world visit my site to see if I have posted anything to help in their ancestral quest? Who knows, but I'll probably cross the new 'maximum' line in the sand sooner rather than later. We are a digital society.

I know that I'll soon be looking at my new holographic thumbnail-sized 100 terrabyte 'thumb' drive and will smile when I remember how backward I was when I only carried a 16 gig memory stick around in my pocket.

When you consider your next computer purchase, how much speed and storage is too much? My heart says that there is no upper end to either of these categories and so my wallet dictates the upper limits.

When you calculate your computing needs before buying your next computer, remember to include all the above factors in your decision. No matter how much digital content you create or store now, it will probably quadruple in the near future.

Fortunately, the life of a computer is only about three years before it becomes so ancient that it is only good for recycling. Thus you'll have the chance to reconsider your speed and storage calculations again fairly soon if you mess up your next computing purchase.


Family Attic said...

This is so true! It seems like only yesterday I thought my 20mb hard drive would last forever. Just wait until the ScanStone project progresses and more of these digitized images become available on FamilySearch. People are amazed when I tell them I need an 8 gig flash drive to hold my database. Not because I have so many names, but because I have so many digital images. Yikes!

Thought provoking article. Thanks.