Magazine article Technology & Learning

Make Way for Mass Storage

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Make Way for Mass Storage

Article excerpt

Remember when a 40-megabyte hard drive seemed big? And how, when dealers told you that you'd never need more than 120 megs, you believed them? Then a little thing called multimedia happened and our notions of needed storage, like its analog in the real world--closet space--expanded exponentially. Now we all know this fundamental truth: Bigger is better.

This is a fine thing if you,re buying a computer today, as lots of models sport hard drives up to and beyond the gigabyte zone. But what if you still have a model with a "whole" 40 megs? Even 120 won't take you very far these days, what with software applications and operating systems getting chunkier in each new version. And if you and your students create home-grown multimedia, publish a school newspaper, or follow your collective muse to design digital imagery, you know how enormous those files can become.

Luckily, a new crop of inexpensive storage options could solve your problems (we should have it so easy with our closets!). Led by the Zip drive from Iomega and the EZ 135 from SyQuest, these new devices use floppy-sized disks with capacities of 100 Mb (Iomega) or 135 Mb (SyQuest) that can be written on, erased, and written on again. At the same time, technologies previously affordable only to high-end users--such as CD-Recordable and "traditional" SyQuest and other cartridge systems--have dropped in price.

One trend of note in computer storage is portability. You'll notice that many of the products showcased here are lightweight enough to transport easily between home and school. The removable cartridge options have the added appeal of being fairly standard at service bureaus, a plus if you and your students are involved in publishing projects. Another trend is multifunction units that have docks for a combination of storage modules.

So which kind should you use? Obviously, many of these products can serve multiple functions--to back up your hard drive, transport files, manage different projects, or even serve as a publishing platform. So, as always, the place to start your planning is with you, your students, and your school. Assess the activities you and your staff have planned for the year and assign storage needs to them. This will help you gauge how big to go. Also consider whether or not you'll be turning over the content frequently. Do you do project after project? Then reusable disks or cartridges would be best suited to your needs. If you're looking at more static kinds of files--for instance, back-ups of student records or projects that culminate with a particular product--you'll want to think about larger hard drives, tape systems. and CD-Recordable products. If you use service bureaus or other outside vendors for publishing ventures such as newspapers, yearbooks, and so forth, check with them to find out which standards they've adopted.

The question hovering over these products is what standard will eventually emerge as, well, the standard. At the moment, several companies, and consortia of companies, are developing what each hopes (and is betting the farm) will become the next generation floppy, hard drive, and compact disc--or some combination of the three. As consumers, you may feel cautious about buying into a new technology too soon (especially you Beta-owners). Also figuring in the equation (albeit at a distance) is the potential impact of "alternative delivery" (aren't you glad I didn't say Information Superhighway?).

In the networked world of tomorrow, storage may mean something completely different--like a utility we pay for by the month. Certainly the companies with storage products believe that the availability of online information has fueled the thirst for their products, since storing downloaded files is a commonly cited reason for purchasing them. If nothing else, the current wave of storage devices should offer us a clue about the future. It's going to take up a lot of space, and one way or another, we need to make room. …

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