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Scientists calculate total data stored to date: 295+ exabytes

Lucas Mearian | Feb. 14, 2011
USC report calculates amount of stored data grew by 23% a year between 1986 and 2007

Hilbert co-authored the study with Priscila Lopez of the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona.

Hilbert explained the study's findings in a short video found here.

The study found that data storage grew 23% annually between 1986 and 2007.

General computing capacity from 1986 through 2007, grew at an annual rate of 58%, the report said.

The world's capacity for bidirectional telecommunication through devices like cell phones, grew at 28% per year. Overall, the world shared 65 exabytes of information through telecommunication devices.

At the same time, worldwide growth of unidirectional information through broadcast channels and the like, grew at only 6% a year during the period. Even so, in 2007 humankind broadcast 1.9 zettabytes, or 1,900 exabytes, of information through technology such as televisions and GPS devices. "That's equivalent to every person in the world reading 174 newspapers every day," the study said.

The telecommunications business has been dominated by digital technologies since 1990, with 99.9% of it in digital format in 2007.

Also in 2007, all the general-purpose computers in the world computed 6.4 x 10^18 instructions per second, the same general order of magnitude as the number of nerve impulses executed by a single human brain. "Doing these instructions by hand would take 2,200 times the period since the Big Bang," the study stated.

"These numbers are impressive, but still minuscule compared to the order of magnitude at which nature handles information," Hilbert said in a statement. "Compared to nature, we are but humble apprentices. However, while the natural world is mind-boggling in its size, it remains fairly constant. In contrast, the world's technological information-processing capacities are growing at exponential rates."

 

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