Storing files and Moore’s Law

Each year for the past few years I have bought a USB Flash memory stick.

I started off with a 512MB memory stick back in January 2005 and it cost me about £15. Likewise a year later in Jan 2006 I went back to the same discounted store and bought a 1GB stick for about £15.

In 2007 a 2GB stick was £15 and low an behold this year 2008 I can get a 4GB stick for £14.86 at the time of writing.

One might be forgiven for thinking that technology is improving at the rate of double a year.

Moore’s Law (Gordon Moore Intel co-founder) stated that processor capability or chip density would double every 18 months in an article back in 1965

The link is to a recent article in the Institution of Engineering and Technology Magazine Jan 26th 2008 edition.

A summary of how technology has managed to roughly follow Moore’s Law:

1) Up until the late 90s chip manufacturers were able to increase the die size or the area of the chip. However, there came a point when the yield (number of good chips on the die) became poor and unviable.

2) The next stage in the story is that chip manufacturers increased the number of layers in a chip with up to 12 layers planned by 2010. This required innovation in chip (CMOS) manufacturing process.

So back to the USB memory doubling every year, well that might be down to price erosion by volume production coupled with the 18 month doubling in capacity.

They key thing for me though is that I did not buy the 4GB USB drive this year.

The original reason to use a USB memory stick was that I could take files with me wherever I went and work on any PC save my work and take it away with me.

Over the past year I have started to use online (free) memory to save files and pictures using the likes of Google Docs (1000 docs), Windows SkyDrive (1GB) Live (500 photos in any 30 day period), Flickr (200 free photos) YouTube (Videos).

I was a little reluctant to do this initially, but I guessed that particularly with the larger players (Google, Yahoo and Windows) that I am not likely to loose my stuff and I reckoned on backing it up onto an external harddrive at home.

As more and more players offer free memory space then I return to the situation with memory and its cost/price erosion to the point that companies feel they can offer free space in quite large volume. And/or maybe its reached the point where these companies feel that they have to offer to get the punters to sign up. BUT this is probably Hard disk memory not Flash

Following on from this the comparison between Flash memory (USB drives) and Hard drive memory came to mind. I can now get a 500GB external HDD for about £75 (probably cheaper if I search more deeply)

With Flash memory 1GB roughly £4, HDD 1GB at £0.15, there is a significant difference.

However, with the advent of online memory coupled with the external HDD, a new line of products starts to look very attractive

The Asus Eee PC and the Apple MacBook Air. Both of these products use Flash memory instead of a standard hard disk.

Why? When I have just pointed out such a big cost difference between Flash and HDD memory.

Well the HDD is the weak link in the laptop particularly because it is prone to being damaged if subjected to any force

The HDD is also heavy, bulky and juicy. Using Flash instead of standard HDD contributes to a light, thin, economic more reliable and more robust product.

So the idea of an Asus Eee with an 8GB Flash HDD sounds odd, but actually its just right for today. It’s light to carry, more reliable and the battery SHOULD last longer.

I would use it to work on line, saving my work on line and every now and then, maybe when I am back at home I back up my on line stuff onto my USB external 500GB HDD.

My reason for writing about this is really a reflection about how I am changing the way I operate the way I use a PC, the internet, and file storage

The fact that I cannot get an 8GB Asus Eee for love nor money is neither here nor there really.

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