Billions and Billions Served

As long time readers of my blog know, I like to reflect from time to time on the relentless growth of processing capacity and storage density in the computing world. I’m about a week behind on the news, but felt compelled to comment on the story I saw on Slashdot last week, that Seagate announced they’ve shipped their billionth hard drive. Their first drive shipped in 1979 was 5MB and cost $1,500, or $300 per megabyte. Fast forward today, nearly thirty years later, where a terabyte drives goes for about $300, and the steepness of an exponential curve over time is revealed. Same price, one million times the capacity. By 2028, we all might have exabyte -capacity drives in our PCs.

My first hard drive was a 20MB drive in my Mac SE, which I got (thanks Mom & Dad!) when I started as an undergrad at Stanford in 1989. I don’t know what the standalone cost of a 20MB drive was, but my Mac SE was a pretty sweet machine at the time: 1MB RAM, 20MB HD, an 800K floppy drive and a screaming-fast 7.83Mhz Motorola 68000 CPU. That CPU, along the 6502, are the only two chips I ever wrote assembly code for. Ahh, memories. With the student discount, I think the whole system ran about $3500, or about $7,000 in today’s dollars.