The Big Think

November 18, 2004

One Point Twenty One Gigawatts!!!!

Filed under: Computing,Technology — jasony @ 10:48 pm

Not really, but Seagate has shipped something almost as big. The new 400GB hard drive (story here). I get a kick watching the size of hard drives go up. It’s a monthly reminder that we’re living on the steepening part of Moore’s curve.

My first computer had a 40 meg hard drive. I remember when my college roommate talked about getting a “gig for a grand”, then I paid an extra $500 for an added 4.5 gig hard drive (UWSCSI, of course). My current computer cost me just over $1300 and has 250 gb spread over three hard drives. Last week the largest single-unit hard drive was 250 gig. With the introduction of this 400 gig monster, we’ve increased in capacity, in one generation, by the first, oh 40 years of drive capacity combined. That’s cool.

So what’s the average drivel going to be like in five years? 1 terabyte? 2? 5? What about 10 years? Will storage become so cheap and easy as to be essentially limitless? Or will we move off the end of the charts to a paradigm that renders the current concept of local storage obsolete? The future’s fun to speculate about.

Okay, I’ll make some quick off the cuff predictions in 5 and 10 year increments.

5 years:
Largest consumer hard drive size: 4tb
Average (installed) computer consumer HD size: 2tb
Average installed RAM: 6GB
Average screen size: 24″. CRT’s will still be around, but almost none will be sold with new machines
Average chip speed: 8ghz. yup, only 8, although the process of multicoreing will increase the apparent speed, I’ll bet that 8Ghz is as high as it gets… not much higher than the current 4ghz. We’ll see 2, then 4 chips put on high-performance machines, but the state of technology will keep chip speeds close to where they are now. Why do I say this? Talking with some folks in the industry, I’ve discovered that we’re almost at the mhz speed limit now, and engineers are going to start looking other places for speed improvements.
Bandwidth: same as now. Even though it’s technologically possible, I don’t see ISP’s decreasing prices or upping bandwidth without a sufficiently motivating economic force. I.E. the jerks will keep overcharging us for pitifully slow speeds, while countries like S. Korea put faster and faster pipes into consumers’ homes for next to nothing. 🙁

10 years:
largest consumer HD size: 15tb
average installed hd size: 8tb
average installled RAM: 10gb
average screen size: 24″ still, and no crt’s available, unless you REALLY want one (hey, you can still buy vinyl records). I think two feet is about the biggest that the average person will want, due to physical desk sizes and user interface considerations. We don’t all want repetitive stress injuries from moving the mouse across a forty foot screen now, do we?
Chip speed: in 10 years, I’ll guess that chip speeds will top out around 12ghz… that’s only three times what the fastest are currently. I know, I know, think outside the box, Jason! What about Moore’s law? I still maintain that engineers will hit a wall sooner than we think. Computers will continue to get faster, but it’ll be through putting more cores on one chip.
bandwidth: in ten years, twenty bucks will buy you 10 megabit download and one megabit up.

I don’t predict that drives will get much bigger as the average consumer won’t be able to fill the capacity unless HDTIVO’s get built into all our computers. Then maybe 15tb might seem small. As it is, I’ve currently got the biggest music collection of all my friends (over 10,000 songs), ripped at the highest MP3 quality levels, and it only takes up 80 gig. Heck, I do audio recording for a living and don’t throw anything away and I still have 40 gig free. I’d love to see the killer app that will require the average drive to be more than 15,000 gigabytes (that’s fifteen TRILLION bytes Giles! :), but I just can’t think of it.

Oh, and cellphones will have 100 gig of storage, prompting some really interesting capabilities. Like what if your cellphone stayed connected to your home computer via high speed wireless all the time and used the computing resources of your home machine to do its tasks? Cool things could happen.

Other predictions: interfaces won’t be substantially different. The vast majority of users will still use some minor variation of desktop/folder/drive navigation that’s been with us since 1984 (twenty years now!).
Handheld computers will be as powerful in 10 years as the average desktop is today. Some sort of portable color display, whether projection or worn (like these glasses) will be common, but the screen will be embedded in the glass and the signal will be wireless. Joy! Being able to read anywhere is a dream of mine. Full-time high speed wireless connectivity anywhere you can currently get a cell signal. Lower speed wireless in rural areas.
Scientists will continue making progress in computer/brain control, though these products will remain in the domain of medical research and for those with true disabilities. Voluntary augmentation won’t start until 2020 or so.

So there’s my predictions. Very conservative on the speed/capacity fronts, a bit more speculative on bandwidth and portability. Most people overestimate what can be done in the short term and underestimate what can be done long-term. As I see it, it’s impossible to tell where “short-term” ends and “long-term” begins, so I tend to be a bit of a pessimist. At least I live in a state of constant technological surprise.
So what are your predictions?

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Powered by WordPress