The Age of the Domesticated Terabyte is Here

Two computer hardware ads hit my in-basket today offering consumer-oriented storage capacity of such an amazing price-to-volume ratio that it may represent a new stage of digital evolution: the domestication of the terabyte. One ad featured a desktop PC with a terabyte of hard drive capacity (via a pair of 500 gigabyte SATA drives) for under $2,000. The other ad featured a one terabyte external USB drive for under $500.

To put this in perspective, I can remember driving out of San Francisco one day in 1986 just to get the unbeatable cash price of $300 on a 30 megabyte hard drive, from the back office of an obscure industrial unit in Sunnyvale. And I thought myself lucky!

No, I won't lapse into a geek's version of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch, but just ponder for a moment the difference between the cost per megabyte then and now. In 1986 it was $10.00 a megabyte. Today, based on the $200 price tag of a half-a-terabyte SATA drive (from Tiger Direct for example) the cost of one megabyte is $0.0004. Heck, if you play the rebate game at right now you can get 1 gigabyte of of postage-stamp size solid state storage for $0.004 per megabyte. Only need half a gigabyte? That's free, all but for the shipping and handling.

But it is the sub-$500 terabyte external hard drive that really tells you the gigabytes have come home to roost by the thousand. Just a year ago one blogger was making fun of LaCie's introduction of the Big Disk 1TB under the heading "LaCie 1 Terabyte USB Porn Drive." I'm not taking issue with Steve for that posting, and I love the site, but what a difference a year makes.

I'm tempted to get one of these thing and no, I won't be using it for porn. After all, there are family values to think of, and it's not unusual to find families today that have one computer each: Mum, Dad, and the 2.5 kids. A terabyte external drive would let each one back up 222 gigabytes. That's about the amount of storage built into an entry-level desktop and just over twice what you get in a new notebook. What are people using it for? Music, photos, and video. Lots of it.

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