In the seventies I had my first experience with a digital computer. Actually the word computer is a bit exagerated, it was a TI58c, a programmable calculator from Texas Instrument that could remember a little program in its resident memory even when turned off, which was a revolution at the time. I used it mainly to cheat at the exams. It’s memory capacity was expressed in bytes. That’s all I remember from computing in the seventies.
Then it was the eighties. And in 1981 precisely, I bought my very first own computer, a ZX81 from Sinclair computer. It had a whopping kilobyte of memory. Unfortunately some of those 1024 Kilobytes were used for the display memory. I quickly bought the 16K extension. But it was overheating and disconnected frequently. A few years later, around 1984, I bought a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, with 16 K of memory, that I quickly upgrade to the 48K model. I still own a untouched sample in my office, thanks to my partner John who found one in an attic. One of my best friend was lucky enough to get a 128K Macintosh. But all I could afford was a Sinclair QL… enought to overleap the Commodore 64 K that all the others kids from my school where bragging about. In the eighties we expressed memory in kilobytes.
Then it was the nineties. And in 1991 I founded Ex Machina, a prepress and multimedia studio. My first hard drive was a 20 megabytes hard drive. It was huge, thousand times bigger than my previous storage unit : the 3 1/2 floppy drive. But I had trouble opening a photoshop file the size of an A4 page, and to be able to cut and paste between two scans, I had to backup and empty my whole hard drive. Luckily hard drives where growing fast, and suddenly I was sending 40 Megabytes Syquest disks to my offset film supplier. Then Syquest drive became obsoletes and replaced by optical disks, up to 512 Megabytes, … I started creating CD-ROM of 640 Megabytes. In the nineties we expressed memory in Megabytes.
Then we passed 2000. In 2001 Ex Machina, my first company merged with Emalaya and became Emakina. I can remember my first 1 gigabyte removable magneto optic disk drive. And I had 20 gigabytes in my Macintosh laptop. Then 40, then a hundred gigabytes. Now my iMac has a 500 Gigabytes Hard Drive inside and I burn 4.7 Gigabyte DVD disks. I read 40 Gigabytes Blue Ray disks in my PS3. In the first 10 years of the third millennium the memory unit where the Gigabytes, … but my first Terabyte drive entered my house as an Apple Time Capsule. I have several servers with terabytes drive at my Emakina offices, I have a 30 Terabytes storage cluster at ContactOffice, one of my company that provide webmail and online file storage. I can clearly see that the memory unit of the twenties will be the Terabytes (1000^4).
Every 10 years the memory unit grow by a thousand factor. With little imagination you can forecast petabytes (1000^5) drives in the thirties, exabytes (1000^6) in the forties and zettabytes (1000^7) in the fifties, yottabytes (1000^8) in the sixties… enough to record digitally every sound your ear, every image each of your eyes captures in a resolution higher than your retina, every smell, every taste, every touch feeling, … every bit of the chaotic signals your brain thinks is reality. To remember everything forever. Hope I’ll live long enough to see if I was right.