Digital Craploads

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Intriguing article in The Guardian on “How one year’s digital output would fill 161bn iPods”.  Excerpts –

Last year enough digital information – from emails and blogs to mobile phone calls, photos and TV signals – was generated to fill a dozen stacks of hardback books stretching from the earth to the sun, according to research published today.  The proliferation of digital cameras and mobile phones that can take pictures, coupled with the popularity of online video services such as YouTube and BitTorrent, has caused an explosion of images.  This pushed the world’s total digital content last year to 161bn gigabytes.  That is the equivalent of 161bn iPod Shuffles or 161 of so-called exabytes.  The sheer amount of data that has been created by the digital age becomes clear when comparing it with the spoken word.  Experts estimate that all human language since the dawn of time would take up about 5 exabytes if stored in digital form.  In comparison, last year’s email traffic accounted for 6 exabytes. 

…..Roughly a quarter of the digital universe is original – such as pictures or emails or even phone calls – while the other three-quarters is replicated material including forwarded emails, movies on DVD and pirated music.  Much of this digital information is being produced by individuals.  YouTube, for instance, hosts about 100m daily video streams, while more than a billion songs are shared over the internet every day.  IDC estimates that by 2010, more than 70% of all the digital information in the world will have been created by consumers.  But companies and organisations are also creating a wealth of digital content: London’s 200 traffic surveillance cameras, for instance, generate roughly 8m gigabytes every day.  Stephen Minton, IDC vice-president, admitted he was surprised by the amount being produced, but that having the world’s knowledge in digital form should make it easier to handle and utilise.  “There has always been a lot of information but in the past it was stored on paper in books,” he said.  “The real opportunity represented by digital information is that it can be used more efficiently, we now have the opportunity to analyse the heck out of it.”  But to analyse this data it needs to be stored and already the UK is creating more digital content than can be hosted on available devices – such as networks or computers.  The US is expected to reach this “tipping point” next year.  The US and Europe account for almost three-quarters of the digital content generated last year but there is likely to be a shift in the coming years as consumers in the Asia-Pacific region get online and use more gadgets such as camera phones…..IDC expects the data added annually to the digital universe to rise more than sixfold to 988 exabytes within three years.  The rise of broadband internet usage has paved the way for people across the world to start sending and sharing large amounts of data such as pictures.  Worldwide there were more than a billion internet users last year and that is expected to increase to 1.6 billion in 2010.  But while video and photo sharing are considered part of the second wave of internet services – known as web 2.0 – one of the applications that gave many people their first taste of the web is still going strong.  In 1998 there were 253m email mailboxes.  Last year there were nearly 1.6bn and the number of emails sent is growing three times faster than the number of mailboxes being opened.  Instant messaging is also expected to grow, with IDC predicting there will be 250m IM accounts by 2010…..

1,000 bytes = 1 kilobyte (KB).  2KB is the approximate amount of data on a typewritten page.
1,000 MB = 1 gigabyte (GB).  A 1GB iPod will store about 240 songs.
1,000 GB = 1 terabyte (TB)
1,000 TB = 1 petabyte (PB)
1,000 PB = 1 exabyte (EB).  A claim often made is that all the words ever spoken by humanity could be represented by roughly 5 exabytes of data.
1000 EB = 1 zettabyte (ZB).  1 ZB = 1,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000 bytes.  In data terms that is roughly half a million times the collections of all the academic libraries in the United States.  No computer on earth is capable of storing this much data.

Reference :,,2027254,00.html

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