Storage for your digital stuff has never been cheaper. We recently received an ad in our inbox from a well-known electronics retailer. The startling item in the ad was a 1 gigabyte compact flash card for under $90. Recently, Jim Louderback, in his When I’m 64 feature, found a Seagate 160GB ATA drive for roughly $60 after rebate. Dual-layer recordable CD drives have dropped to under $100. A tiny Hitachi 2GB Microdrive in a digital camera can store enough digital pictures, if printed out, to fill dozens of shoeboxes.
Mass storage today is cheap and plentiful. Despite this seeming cornucopia of buckets for your bits, storage technology is still evolving. We’ll take a look at some of the key areas of technical evolution in the arena of personal storage. Here, we’ll be focusing on disk-based media, both optical and hard disk, with an eye on near-term buying decisions. Note that we’re not going to discuss tape technology, as it’s no longer a common component of desktop PCs, even though it’s still heavily used in enterprise environments.
It’s About Connections
Connecting mass storage used to be simple. Attach the IDE cable, make sure the master/slave/CS jumper is set correctly, and go. If you were one of those rare users who used SCSI in a desktop PC, things were somewhat more complex, but you were also typically more technically savvy than the average user, or even the typical DIY user.
Today, connections are a bit more complex. Let’s take a look at the new methods for connecting storage before we dive too deeply into the actual storage technologies.