Wednesday’s Wondrous World: Flash Drives

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Ok, so this is probably silly, but one of my favorite technological wonders of the past decade or so is the USB flash drive/thumb drive.

What a great little device!  It’s utterly pocket sized, and yet can hold an unbelievable amount of data!   It is a tiny, incredible manmade wonder, but a wonder none-the-less.

As a writer I am a firm believer in the concept of the back-up.  Many copies of anything/everything are essential!  There need to be back-ups, and back-ups of back-ups to protect my stories, my ideas, my blog posts.

flash sp

This was less practical when I was a kid, and writing was pen to paper and a notebook full of sentences and ideas and so forth.  As I got older, and computers became more readily available, it was floppy disks that allowed data storage and back up.

Remember the 5 ¼” floppy disk?  Flimsy thing, literally living up to its name.  These diskettes (an improvement themselves from the prior 8” floppy disks) could hold from 90 kilobytes to 1.2 megabytes of data.  Later it was the 3.5” disk, which was much sturdier, more portable, and now able to hold from 1.4 megabytes to 240 megabytes.  Then there were zip disks, which were nearly the same size as a 3.5” disk, but much more durable and capable of holding 700 megabytes of data.

For those who are unfamiliar – the original units of data storage in the world of computing were bits.  It was not long before the bit gave way to the byte, which is itself made of eight bits (the original number of bits required for a single character of text).  So, taking that into account, a kilo-byte is a thousand bytes.  A megabyte thus is a thousand-thousand bytes, or rather a million bytes.  So now we reach the gigabyte, a thousand thousand thousand bytes, or rather a billion bytes of data.


Let’s examine this a moment, shall we?  I got my first personal computer, an Apple IIe, in 1985.  The 5 ¼” floppy disk back-up could hold approximately 140 kilobytes of data.  To protect and transport the floppy disk, you needed a hard plastic case, and probably a book bag or backpack of some sort.  Now, in 2013, the USB flash drive I can carry easily in my pocket can hold 8 gigabytes of data.  This tiny, two inch long by about ½ inch wide device is capable of holding more than 57,000 times more information!

In the course of just over 30 years we have exponentially increased the amount of information we can carry away into a convenient and miniature vessel.  Libraries of information available at our fingertips, and yet stored in our pockets.  These tiny drives can hold up to 256 gigabytes of data (and are growing further).

flash r2

If you want to take with you all the stories you have written, all the books you have ever read, all the photos you have ever taken, any digital information you wish to have and more – you can keep them all in a pocket!  Such a simple, miniscule device, yet an amazing wonder of our modern technological age.

Yes, I know you can store your data in the “cloud”, somewhere with almost infinite storage on a server you will never see.  But I prefer the security of that data being where I know its physical location and who has access to it.  And yes, for the uber-geeks reading this – I know that flash “drives” haven’t the moving components of their predecessors – but they still hold more information and are more durable, and the term “drive” has long been accepted for them and their ilk.

I understand if you are not, like me, a tech geek.  But isn’t it amazing how something so tiny can hold inside something so vast?  Truly, the flash drive is a wondrous manmade wonder in our wondrous world.

How do you like to store YOUR digital data?


Me 3-25-13 smallerI am MJ Blehart, your geektacular guide to “Wednesday’s Wondrous World”.  Every week I share a wonder of this amazing world, and I hope you will enjoy the journey with me!

Check out my blog, The Ramblings of a Titanium Don, for more of my work.

Also now available, Pathwalking: A 21st Century Philosophy in Book and Kindle form!


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