Once upon a time, our rigid plastic square friends—better known as floppy disks— were an integral part of the way we stored and transferred information. Now, gone are the days of drawers packed with 3.5-inch floppy disks. Gone are the days of fragile CDs, bulky hard drives and easily misplaced USB sticks.
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Nowadays, we humans are creating, consuming and saving an exponential amount of information. Through our laptops, tablets, mobile devices and smart watches, we have data, programs, photos and documents right at our fingertips. Line up all the outmoded forms of data storage we’ve seen through the years and you will quickly see how much technological headway has been made in the data realm.
The History of Data Storage
Back in the age of the mini-computer, the 80s utilized plastic cassettes with magnetic tape as not just a way to store music, but as a way to also store programs and data. However, this method was no battle to the 5.25-inch floppy disk—which would ultimately be replaced by the 3.5-inch floppy disk. These thin flexible disks could hold 1.44 MB of data. (Compare that to the 64 GB of data that your iPhone is capable of storing.) For 20 years, floppy disks were the main storage device used for personal computers.
1972 was the year IBM birthed the floppy disk. As we celebrate the floppy disk’s 44th birthday, we find them to be extinct. As the limitations of floppies became more evident in the 90s, its newer and more refined cousin, the CD, would soon come to replace it. In 1998, Apple released the iMac—the first personal computer without a built-in floppy drive.
CDs were first developed by Sony as a form of audio-only storage, and later emerged as a format for storing videos, images, computer games and software programs. CD burners hit the mass market at the brink of the new millennium.
Meanwhile, zip drives and laser disks (bulkier versions of floppies and CDs) hit the market but didn’t gain much traction. Hard drives continued to reduce in size and the first portable flash drive was introduced in 1998. This technology became the most compact and fastest storage device in history, with some devices holding up to 512 GB. The convenience of USB and flash drives left floppy disks in the dust. Now, the only form of a floppy disk you will find is the one used as the ‘save’ button in Microsoft Office Programs. To Generation Z, the little icon is just a random tiny square in the toolbar, but to the rest of us, the floppy disk icon is a reminder of our innovative and rapidly evolving tech landscape.
The Cloud Revolution
In today’s digital age, we are experiencing a significant shift in the way of computing. The traditional desktop processor is being replaced with a new breed of PCs that fit right in your back pocket: mobile devices and tablets. While these handheld devices provide the same computing power as a PC, they still lack in storage. Thus, the data that could be stored on a disk or flash drive is now leaping into the cloud. The cloud is revolutionizing the way we store and share our information online. But what exactly is the cloud and what’s so great about it?
The cloud provides a remote and centralized system for storing information. The World Wide Web and cloud-based technologies have together provided a method for storing data and processing information on multiple servers, which tend to be hosted by third parties. The applications are therefore running from a remote location, ‘a cloud of resources,’ so to speak. Therefore, broadband Internet allows businesses and consumers to run web-based applications and software instead of running them directly from a local server.
As we become less dependent on personal computer hardware, we are becoming more accustomed to a paradigm where resources are shared among the masses. We can sync software applications, documents, photos, and music across all our devices, helping us transfer information with ease. This technology is what is powering everything from productivity suites like our Gmail accounts, to our social networking sites like our Facebook pages; it is even expanding into other big data industries as well.
Technological advancements within the data storage medium have disrupted the way we communicate, share information and ultimately, experience life. An account manager can quickly open a spreadsheet that was stored in the cloud and display it at a business meeting. Employees can access the same document remotely and collaborate through platforms like Google Docs and Evernote. Your primary physician can quickly transfer your digital health records to the ER in case of an emergency. You can quickly hire a driver to take you home from your mobile device and track where they are. A photo album you posted on Facebook a year ago can be streamed onto your home digital photo frame in an instant. Some digital photo frames, like those from Nixplay.com, use the cloud to securely store photos. Todays cloud technology powers a variety of our everyday tools by keeping our data centralized and in sync.
Through a web of interlocked devices, we are more connected than ever before. The ability to access our data and software instantly in real-time through the cloud has allowed us to keep our digital lives in order. It’s hard to predict what the future of data storage holds, but if the past is any indication—the possibilities are endless.
Daphne Lefran has been writing about tech products for many years and currently writes on behalf of cloud digital frame providers at Nixplay. In her spare time, she enjoys capturing moments through a camera lens, traveling to new places and cheering on the Florida State Seminoles. Follow her on Twitter @daphnelefran or find her on LinkedIn.