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Floppy Disk? Punched Cards?...Change Does Happen!

Some things on the Internet need to be updated. I know, some of you are saying that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones!

In lieu of updates, some websites just go away, even if once useful. An example is Roy Williams' Powers of Ten website, once housed at CalTech. Don't search; it is no longer on-line, and at best you can find cached copies.

But, what made his website useful? Below is the information listed around the year 2000. Some of the comparison-items need to be updated, plus some new bigger numbers have appeared on today's scene. Anyone want to take this task on?


Byte: [8 bits]
  • 0.1 bytes: a binary decision
  • 1 byte: a single character
  • 10 bytes: a single word
  • 100 bytes: a telegram
Kilobyte: [1,000 bytes OR 103 bytes]
  • 1 Kilobyte: A very short story
  • 2 Kilobytes: A typewritten page
  • 10 Kilobytes: An encyclopaedic page
  • 10 Kilobytes: static web page
  • 50 Kilobytes: A compressed document image page
  • 100 Kilobytes: A low-resolution photograph
  • 200 Kilobytes: A box of punched cards
  • 500 Kilobytes: A very heavy box of punched cards
Megabyte: [1,000,000 bytes OR 106 bytes]
  • 1 Megabyte: A small novel OR a 3.5 inch floppy disk;
  • 2 Megabytes: A high resolution photograph;
  • 5 Megabytes: The complete works of Shakespeare OR 30 seconds of TV-quality video
  • 10 Megabytes: A minute of high-fidelity sound OR a digital chest X-ray
  • 20 Megabytes: A box of floppy disks
  • 50 Megabytes: A digital mammogram
  • 100 Megabytes: 1 meter of shelved books OR a two-volume encyclopaedic book
  • 200 Megabytes: A reel of 9-track tape OR an IBM 3480 cartridge tape
  • 500 Megabytes: A CD-ROM OR the hard disk of a PC
Gigabyte: [1,000,000,000 bytes OR 109 bytes]
  • 1 Gigabyte: a pickup truck filled with paper OR a symphony in high-fidelity sound OR a movie at TV quality
  • 2 Gigabytes: 20 meters of shelved books OR a stack of 9-track tapes
  • 5 Gigabytes: 8mm Exabyte tape
  • 20 Gigabytes: A good collection of the works of Beethoven OR 5 Exabyte tapes OR a VHS tape used for digital data
  • 50 Gigabytes: A floor of books OR hundreds of 9-track tapes
  • 100 Gigabytes: A floor of academic journals OR a large ID-1 digital tape
  • 200 Gigabytes: 50 Exabyte tapes
  • 500 Gigabytes: The biggest FTP site
Terabyte: [1,000,000,000,000 bytes OR 1012 bytes]
  • 1 Terabyte: An automated tape robot OR all the X-ray films in a large technological hospital OR 50000 trees made into paper and printed OR daily rate of EOS data (1998)
  • 2 Terabytes: An academic research library OR a cabinet full of Exabyte tapes
  • 10 Terabytes: The printed collection of the US Library of Congress
  • 50 Terabytes: The contents of a large Mass Storage System
  • 400 Terabytes: National Climactic Data Center (NOAA) database
Petabyte: [1,000,000,000,000,000 bytes OR 1015 bytes]
  • 1 Petabyte: 3 years of EOS data (2001)
  • 2 Petabytes: All US academic research libraries
  • 8 Petabytes: All information available on the Web
  • 20 Petabytes: Production of hard-disk drives in 1995
  • 200 Petabytes: All printed material OR production of digital magnetic tape in 1995
Exabyte: [1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes OR 1018 bytes]
  • 2 Exabytes: Total volume of information generated worldwide annually
  • 5 Exabytes: All words ever spoken by human beings
Zettabyte: [1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes OR 1021 bytes]

Yottabyte: [1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes OR 1024 bytes]


Data comparisons like this are great, as they give one a feel for the relative size of things (i.e. numbers). Unfortunately, so many of the comparison terms used above are out-of-date. I can hear some opf you mumbling: "What's a 9-track tape?, etc.)

Thus, I again issue an appeal: Anyone able and willing to take on the task of updating this "Powers of Ten" list, using objects that have meaning today? Please....