reading, research, science fiction, writing

How much Data in my Brain?

The Cray-1 supercomputer

My desk is a mess. No, I am NOT posting a picture of it! 

This is normal for me, actually. I will clean it off, but inevitably the piles grow back, like resistant bacteria you just can’t get rid of forever. The best I can hope for is a kind of stasis, or at least to slow the growth. With work and school I have two computers at right angles to one another, a cell phone in pieces in front of one keyboard with the new one resting next to it waiting for some magical signal to pass through the air and activate it… 

Because that is what got me thinking about this post. The fact that this morning as I was putting the new phone to rights – sim card, memory card, battery charged – I held out the micro memory card balanced on a fingertip, and pointed out that it holds 8 gigs of data. It’s going to run on a processor small enough (and cool enough!) to fit comfortably in my hand. 

The year I was born, the biggest supercomputer was the Cray 1, which had a memory bank of one million words, and weighed in at 5.5 tons. In the less than four decades since then, we have come so far that computer is almost unimaginable to the youth of today, learning how to manipulate touchscreen computers before they can even walk.  I just have to stop once in a while and ponder that, how the leaps we have made in my lifetime have affected the world, and what is coming next? 

Maybe this is why I love to read good science fiction. Going back to the golden age, I can see the glimmers and flickers of what they got right, and the howlers of what they got terribly wrong. But it’s hard to blame them. Who could have predicted that my great-grandmother, by the time of her death at 107, would have seen the rise of the motor vehicle, aeroplanes, and a man on the moon? 

Have we topped out? Can we keep leaping forward like this, or have we hit a ceiling of what technology as we know it can do? Strictly speaking with memory, we have not yet fully utilized what computers are capable of, I believe.  Think of it this way: that Cray 1 was a 64 bit machine. 

  • Each byte holds 8 bits, or 255 individual values
  • Today, we talk about: kilo, mega, giga, and Terabytes
  • Floppy Disc – 1.44 Mb
  • CD – 650-900 Mb
  • DVD – 4.71 GB
  • 116 Gb in a brain (estimated, of course!)

And finally, a fun little article I’d found… I need better information, but this is an interesting start. 

Now, I really need to do some homework. Back tomorrow with a review of a children’s book, for something different. Sheepdogs, by LtC Dave Grossman and Stephanie Rogish. 

Cedar Sanderson
Oh, not my desk, but this is me, installing a 1Tb drive in my iMac. Geek-girl moment!

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