Holy Storage Space, Batman!

I’m amazed at the dramatic increase in digital storage capacity in the last decade and a half. I was going through my storage unit one day last week after work at Ingenex Digital Marketing, and I came across my old SyQuest disk. I bought it for a desktop publishing class in the mid-90s, and I used it to save flyers and other print materials I had designed. The disk is a removable hard drive that measures 5.25 square inches — huge by today’s standards. Despite its size, however, it holds a mere 44MG, or megabytes. It was the largest storage unit I had at the time.

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

Now, I carry a 1GB, or gigabyte, flash drive in my backpack for whatever miscellaneous items I might want to upload/download — text documents, photos, etc. I also have a 500MB external hard drive that mostly contains image files. And then I own a 2TB, or terabyte, external hard drive, which I use exclusively for videos. I was curious on the size differences so I asked my friend, a math teacher, to do the calculations.

1,000K = 1MB
1,000MB = 1GB
1,000GB = 1TB


1GB is about 23 times(x) 44MB
500GB is 11,500x 44MB
2TB is 46,000x 44MB

Needless to say, that’s a huge jump in only 15 years! But, what does this mean as far as the larger social picture? I wasn’t sure, so I pulled in one of my co-workers here at Ingenex. Her blunt assessment: we’re a culture that likes to accumulate “stuff” and all this space encourages us to acquire more “stuff.” (Truth be told, she used the other “s” word.) She mentioned, as an example, that she has saved every paper she ever wrote in college. She admitted that she doesn’t need to hold onto the documents, and hasn’t read many since the time of her studies.

Personally, I take hundreds of digital photos whenever I go on a trip. I store the photos on the 500MB hard drive I mentioned, but rarely look at any. Actually, a lot of the images aren’t even that great — I’ve been known to take snapshots of trash. It was interesting at the time! And then there’s music. I’ve downloaded hundreds of songs over the years. I’ll hear a song playing in a store or on the radio while driving, and I’ll acquire the track soon after. More often than not, I’ll listen to it once or twice before losing interest.

So, why do we keep all this unnecessary digital material? What compels us to hold onto so much, as my co-worker calls it, “stuff?” Because we can! The technology is available and we gladly use it — which reminds me of an old Doritos commercial. The tagline went: “Go ahead and crunch. We’ll make more.” Well, the producers of digital storage could very well amend the slogan to: “Go ahead and store. We’ll add more space.”