New IBM Storage Device Holds 330 Terabytes of Uncompressed Data. How Much Music is That?

When I bought my first computer, people were impressed that it had a 40 MEGAbyte hard drive to go along with its 4 MB of RAM. That’s a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of the kind of memory available in even the cheapest smartphone. To put it in musical terms, 40 MB was enough storage for maybe 10 MP3s–had MP3s been available yet.

IBM’s first hard drive, 1956. It had a capacity of 5 MB.

But then 15 years later, we had the iPod Classic with its 160 GB hard drive, which was good for 40,000 songs. Today, it’s easy to get a computer with a terabyte of storage or more. And what’s a TB hard drive going for now? Less than a hundred bucks?

But with exabytes of data being generated every day, scientists are always looking for bigger and better storage solutions. IBM has come up with a new cartridge no bigger than a palm of your hand that uses a tape with a data density of 201 GB per square inch. This translates into a unit that can hold 330 TB.

Let’s do the math–and PLEASE correct me if I get anything wrong.

If a 160 GB iPod Classic could hold 40,000 songs as MP3s, how much music could you get on this new cartridge?

  • 330 TB is 330,000 GB
  • Using the iPod Classic as our baseline, that works out to 82,500,000 MP3s, more than twice the number of songs available on Spotify.
  • That works out to 5,500,000 hours or nearly 230,000 days or 630 years.
  • If we were to start listening to this playlist today, the last song would finish something around the year 2647

Did I get that right?

More at The Verge.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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