Blog Post

10 Fun Facts About Storage

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

TECH HISTORY: The New York Times had a nice story about dressy hard drives that reminded me how much of our digital lives are dependent on this often ignored low-margin business. As mentioned before, from iPod to TiVo to our set-top boxes – everything is touched by storage.

Times story reminded me of this quote from Storage maverick Al Shugart, who may have passed onto the beaches of Heaven, but he still lives amongst us, reminding us how much we owe him and his generation.


“Make it bigger, faster, cheaper,” Shugart, founder of Shugart Associates & Seagate Technology, once famously said. Seagate Technology — originally Shugart Technology Inc. — sold a a 5.25-inch, 5-Mbyte drive for $1,500. The industry is still working hard to make sure that Shugart’s words still ring true. Sure things have changed a lot since then. Have a look… and see how much.

  • The magnetic HDD is 50 years old (#). In 1956 IBM introduced 305 RAMAC (random access method of accounting and control), which is like the great-great-great grandfather of today’s disks. It was the size of a refrigerator, and stored a total of 4.4 megabytes on 50 doubled-sided, two-foot-diameter disks. The disk had a density of 2,000 bits of data per square inch and had a purchase price of $10,000,000 per Gbyte. (#)
  • Today’s laptop drives are typically 2.5 inches and are a size of a deck of cards, and can store upto 160 gigabytes – or 131 billion bits per square inch. Price is less than $1 per gigabyte. (#)
  • Consumers bought 739.7 million gigabytes of hard-drive storage space last year. That is 11 times what they bought in 2003. (NYT)
  • In the U.S. alone, $600 million worth of external hard drives were sold in 2006, up 53% from 2005, The NPD Group, a market research firm, says. (NYT)
  • External hard drive prices declined 28.4% from $197 in 2003 to $141 in 2006 and the amount of storage space on the drives doubled.(NYT)
  • Per Gigabyte retail price of hard disk drive storage in 2003 was $2.04, but in 2006 it was 77 cents, according to The NPD Group.
  • The recording density for data — aka capacity — has increased 60,000,000-fold in 50 years. (#)
  • The amount of worldwide information is projected to grow from 161 exabytes in 2006 to 988 exabytes in 2010. An Exabyte is a million terabytes.(WWD)
  • By 2010, the total amount of data will overwhelm the total amount of digital storage by a factor of nearly 2 to 1. 2007 is the year that our ability to stuff bits into the digital universe will outstrip our ability to store them.(WWD)
  • Research shows that in large-scale IT installations, the annual disk replacement rates typically exceed 1%, with 2-4% common and up to 13% observed on some systems. (#)

Sources: I gleaned out some interesting little tidbits from The New York Times story, and another article from WebWorkerDaily. Rest of it comes from various different sources (#) such as Hitachi Research and are linked accordingly. The photo appears courtesy of Hitachi Research as well.

27 Responses to “10 Fun Facts About Storage”

  1. Many people like to use their hard drive as a sort of time capsule now. Therefore, they do not want to delete anything. They want to be able to go back and click on an mp3, photo, Word Document, video, etc. and see when it was added to the computer. They also try to remember where the file came from or who emailed it to them. Therefore, the amount of storage needed will always be increasing. Backing up your hard drive will become even more important, too. I just have 160GB, and I have run through that in record time. I am having to delete stuff now just to create new space.

    Thanks for the article!

  2. Storage in electronic memory strikes me like the comment made twenty-some years ago about dive bags (which also applies to luggage), that no matter how big it is you’ll always find something to fill it up. Of course, the intimation is that the truly necessary equipment only takes up so much space, and the remainder will be filled with stuff that may never be used at all. So just how much information is it necessary to store, and how many trees worth of information is really indispensable?

  3. Young whippersnappers have no idea how good they have it in this age. :) Fast, big and cheap rules the day!

    I fondly remember backing up a Data General mini back in the 80s that used 50MB removable hard drive platter gizmos. The main and backup drives were the size of a washer and dryer, while the multiplatter disks were the size of jumbo birthday cakes.

    Flashforward a few years and I was burning thousands of corporate dollars on Barracudas, thinking they were the baddest thing in town. Glad it wasn’t my money …

  4. By 2012 though, hard drive manufacturers may have hard drives in quantities in excess of 5tb and laptop hard drives around 1tb, going to be interesting to see people fill those up. Plus if mp3 players start having 500gb hard drives, its going to be pretty obvious that you’re going to have to download many of those mp3s for “free” unless you like spending all your cash on mp3s.

  5. Hi,

    This article has very useful information, it will be helpful for many aspirants. Actually one of my friends first read this article and asked me to visit this page.
    It’s really amazing to read this description of this article, Thanks for your efforts. Thank you so much for your help.