# A Mole of Bytes

(aka the Dig-The-Gigabyte Campaign)

Is computing rapidly turning itself into a hi-tech version of Howard Stern’s famous “Who Wants to be a Turkish Billionaire?” ?

My son asked me yesterday to explain what is a “Gigabyte”. I tried to describe the meaning of a little bit more than a billion tiny little things hidden in a PC. But then I stopped quickly: how was I going to clarify the meaning of having forty of those “gigabytes” in my laptop’s hard drive alone? And 200 of them in my desktop computer. And a thousand of them (a terabyte) in the latest high-spec PC

And at current growth rates, hard-disk capacity is increasing 10-fold every 5 years. It is perfectly clear then that by the time he’s 19 in 2021, we will have to cope with the impossibility of comprehending what we’ve got, and silly-sounding terms like petabytes (well, it sounds like 8-bit flatulence in Italian anyway)

From there onwards it’s going to be exabytes in 2035, zettabytes in 2050 and I’ll be turning 100 literally in yoda-yoda-land (yottabytes, some million billion billion bytes that will grace our computers in the middle of the 2060)

There is however no need for all this aggravation…let’s learn from Chemistry and dear old Avogadro’s Number

So here’s my proposal:

1. Dig the Giga, Tera, Peta, Etcetc-bytes asap

2. Define a Mole of Bytes as 6.023x(10 to the power of 23) of them

3. Resize the capacities now. Say, a 100 Gigabyte disk becomes a mere 166 femtoMole. To sport even 100 Terabytes of storage area, will only mean less than 200 picoMoles of Bytes

This will surely give some renewed perspective to the whole business of visualizing trends in computing, and show that there is a long long way ahead before we can declare ourselves satisfied with our computational powers

UPDATE: there is now a blog dedicated to the “Mole of Bytes” idea. And some interesting thoughts from DARPA.

### 2 Replies to “A Mole of Bytes”

1. Sonia says:

omg! this really helped me on my mole project i had to do for chemistry!!! thx!!!! i had to make a little stuffed mole (crazy sewing involved) and then i had to make up an analogy. figuring out how many songs are in a mole was preeetty hard…and its a preeetty big number. thx so much!!!

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