Big 20: Flash Drives
Twenty years ago you might have bought one of the first commercial available digital cameras. The Sony Mavica stored up to a half of a megabyte of pictures on a standard five and quarter inch diskette. Fifteen years ago Canon had a smaller, lighter camera that stored its images on a 16MB flash card about the size of a cracker. It was not as vulnerable to mechanical or electrical shock. The flash cards cost a hundred dollars, which meant you bought two of them and downloaded the pictures on one card to a laptop while you photographed with the other. Today you can buy a card with a terabyte of data for the same price. Now people now all walk around with USB flash drives the same way they used to carry floppy disks.
Data storage over the past hundred years has gone from paper to magnetic tape to magnetic disk to flash drives. It is not clear what will replace flash drives, but it will have to cheaper, faster and smaller than what exists today. If networks become more reliable, the cloud may be the ultimate storage place, but many will still want physical media in case the network fails.
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