Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Musings on Books, Bytes, and Josh Coates

Despite the expanse of a century or more between my ancestors and me, I suspect we share similarities. Speaking of my ancestors living their lives and me living my life.... We experienced and know our own personal pasts because we lived through them. Living through present circumstances, we know how we fit into our own environments though outside our personal environments there are aspects of the present which are beyond our knowledge and understanding. And the future, it seems, is (sometimes far) beyond our imaginations. I particularly felt this way after listening to Josh Coates' keynote address at the Friday morning session of RootsTech two weeks ago.

For those of you who don't know Josh Coates, he is the founder of Mozy, the online data storage back-up company. He knows about data storage, the topic of part of his address. He mentioned clay tablets and disks as early forms of data storage but he spent more time talking about data storage on computers, explaining the various sizes of -bytes and how much data they store.
  • Megabyte (MB): a 300-page book
  • Gigabyte (GB): the human genome, read aloud. It would take almost 10 years to read it.
  • Terabyte (TB): paper equal to 32,000 trees, each 18" in diameter
  • Petabyte (PB): 1,400,000 truckloads of paper with 1 ton of paper on each, or approximately 1 million tons of paper
  • Exabyte (EB): about 30,000,000,000 (30 billion) trees cut down and turned into paper (or, all the trees in the U.S. which are 8" or larger). It would take 105 years to read 1 EB of data reading at 300 MB/second (that is, reading one 300-page book per second).
  • Zettabyte (ZB): equal to all the grains of sand on every beach in the world times 7 if each grain = 1 kilobyte (KB) (According to James S. Huggins' Refrigerator Door, one typewritten page equals two KB.)
When I try to contemplate the need to store even one gigabyte of data it boggles my mind. Yes, I have an 8 GB flash drive but what writing could I put on it to completely fill it? Can I possibly write enough that it would take nearly 10 years to read? How many pages of a journal would I have to fill each day and for how many years to use one GB of storage? At some point in his presentation, Josh Coates said, "This is your life!" My life is not that big or long or interesting. Even if I wrote about all the lives of all of my ancestors, I do not think I could use 1 GB of storage. (Yes, I understand that images use much more space, but I'm just talking about words right now.) Honestly, how much storage space does one person need? After a person dies, what will happen to all the stuff that's been stored?

As I pondered this idea of one person needing to store that much data, I remembered an "article" that had come to me via email in 1998 with the title, "B.O.O.K. - New Technology." It was written before the creation of Nook, Kindle, and so many other portable, electronic devices. You might enjoy the humor.
B.O.O.K. - New Technology

Announcing the new Built-in Orderly Organized Knowledge device (BOOK). The BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It's so easy to use even a child can operate it. Just lift its cover!

Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere -- even sitting in an armchair by the fire -- yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc. Here's how it works....

Each BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. These pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binding which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence.

Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs in half. Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now BOOKs with more information simply use more pages. This makes them thicker and harder to carry, and has drawn some criticism from the mobile computing crowd.

Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly to your brain. A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet. The BOOK may be taken up at any time and used by merely opening it. The BOOK never crashes and never needs rebooting, though like other display devices it can become unusable if dropped overboard. The "browse" features allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an "index" feature, which pinpoints the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval.

An optional "BOOKmark" accessory allows you to open the BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session -- even if the BOOK has been closed. BOOKmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single BOOKmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers. Conversely, numerous bookmarks can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once. The number is limited only by the number of pages in the BOOK.

You can also make personal notes next to BOOK text entries with an optional programming tool, the Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Stylus (Pencils).

Portable, durable, and affordable, the BOOK is being hailed as the entertainment wave of the future. The BOOK's appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform.

Look for a flood of new titles soon.
Sitting with a book beside me and a keyboard and screen before me, I am in the past, present, and future. With books I am completely comfortable. With bytes, not so much, though I make a dedicated effort to help my brain assimilate this new knowledge. I'm caught in the present, comfortable in my own environment, yet working hard to meet the advances of the future as they become part of my present. How about you?

1 comment:

  1. I need to check into Mozy to back things up. And the Book sounds interesting, but I think I would miss the actual feel of page turning, the smell, etc.


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