Thursday, June 18, 2015

From Consumers to Producers - The Indian Story - Part 3 - Storage Devices

I used to do a lot of graphic designing and make films for various corporates. One day, I went to show the first cut of a film that I had made for an organization. I went with the film to the concerned brand manager, and when he asked me for a CD, and I said I didn't have one, he thought I was joking. I put my hand in the pocket and brought out my brand new pen-drive and said, that his film was in it. Most people in the office thought I had gone crazy, or I had probably hit my head on something. I made him pull out his computer and put the pen-drive in the USB port, and viola! We had the film copied on to his PC in a few minutes! They did not even know the USB port. Of course it was entirely new to everyone including me at that time. But more about pen-drives later.

When we speak of storage devices, the first thing we think of is the hard disk drive or the HDD. As I said in my first post in this series, my first PC had a hard disk of a whopping 120 MB and the second one 1.2 GB. Then of course, the memory capacity of HDDs went on increasing rapidly, and now having a 500 GB or a 1 TB HDD is quite common. Have you ever opened a broken HDD? Do it, really. All it contains is a lot of circuits, and a small, thin plastic disk.

We used to be amazed by the amount of data these disks used to hold. We were always at our wits end when it came to transferring data. I am talking of the early 90's when we did not have the Internet. We used 5.25 inch floppy drives, which could get corrupted for no reason. Then we had the 3.5 inch floppy drives, a little bit sturdier, but still risky. I used to carry at least 2 copies of the data in different floppies just to be sure. Moreover, the data these floppies could hold was very limited.  The standard 5.25 inch floppy could hold only 1.2 MB data and the 3.5 inch floppy, 1.44 MB of data. Remember, our files also used to be much smaller than today.

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Then came something called the Zip Drive, which was like the 3.5 inch floppy, but was much sturdier and came in two variants - 100 MB and 250 MB. But the real change came when Phillips and Sony together developed the CD, or the compact disk. Suddenly, we had a capacity to transfer 600 to 750 MB of data. The CDs were safer, had less chances of getting corrupt, and also had a long shelf life. I still have some of the older CDs with me, and they still work fine. How significant was this?

In 1995, when Bill Gates gave Windows 95 to the world (in an extremely embarrassing ceremony, when the PC crashed during inauguration), the operating system came in 15 floppies! By 1998, the CDs had come in, and Windows 98 could be installed using just one CD. And why not, because a CD could hold data of 500 floppies!

The next big thing was the DVD - the Digital Video Drive, with a capacity of 4.37 GB or 8.5 GB, ones that we use today. The DVD changed a lot of things for us. One, it could carry a LOT of data. Second, we could watch films in a much better quality than the CDs. Why was that? Why was the movies in a DVD better than those on a CD? And today, we have the BluRay disk, with a storage capacity of 25 GB, with still higher quality of picture quality of movies. More about the movie quality and CD-BluRay in a later blog. Promise...

Along with these developments, the USB drive was also developed and we got two important devices. External HDDs and Pen Drives. External HDDs are a godsend to many, especially for those who have to transfer huge amounts of data. And I don't have to speak about how important the pen drive is to us, common humans!

But back to the story in the beginning. That first pen drive that I amazed my clients with, the one that gave me the status of being the only designer who was also techno savvy, cost me a whopping Rs.2900/- (yes, it did) and the capacity of that pen drive? 128 MB!

Let's link the three posts in this series. These are all parallel evolutions, ultimately leading to us, the consumers of content, consumers of media, turn into producers. The PC, Cameras, and Storage devices, all kept developing and complementing each other. I will deal with another interesting parallel evolution in the next post.

Here are the links to the first two in this series:

Do enjoy the rain, but protect your storage devices. Don't allow them to get wet. Nothing is more irritating and sometimes devastating than losing precious data.

#mediastudies #MediaEconomics #DigitalMedia