Excessive Data Creates Digital Packrats

Electronic consumption has created a society of digital packrats, as the School of Information Management and Systems (SIMS) at the University of California at Berkeley found in a comprehensive report that examined the flow and storage of information. The report estimates that stored information has grown 30 percent per year between 1999 and 2002, and will continue to increase alongside digital needs.

Nearly 800 MB of recorded information is produced per person each year, or the equivalent of 30 feet of books, according to the report. Print, film, magnetic, and optical storage media produced about 5 exabytes of new information in 2002, with 92 percent of the new information stored on magnetic media, mostly in hard disks.

To fully comprehend the size of 5 exabytes, the report explains, “If digitized, the 19 million books and other print collections in the Library of Congress would contain about 10 terabytes of information; 5 exabytes of information is equivalent in size to the information contained in half a million new libraries the size of the Library of Congress print collections.”

Another powerful example of 5 exabytes is that it is the equivalent of all the words ever spoken by human beings.

The U.S. alone is responsible for 40 percent of the world’s newly stored information, including 33 percent of new printed information, 30 percent of new film titles, 40 percent of the world’s information stored on optical media, and about 50 percent of the information stored on magnetic media.

The average American adult uses the telephone 16.17 hours a month, listens to radio 90 hours a month, and watches TV 131 hours a month. About 53 percent of the U.S. population uses the Internet, averaging 25 hours and 25 minutes a month at home, and 74 hours and 26 minutes a month at work.

Worldwide Production of Original Information, If Stored Digitally
Storage
Medium
2002
Terabytes
Upper
Estimate
2002
Terabytes
Lower
Estimate
1999-2000
Upper
Estimate
1999-2000
Lower
Estimate
% Change
Upper
Estimates
Paper 1,634 327 1,200 240 36%
Film 420,254 76,69 431,690 58,209 -3%
Magnetic 4,999,230 3,416,230 2,779,760 2,073,760 80%
Optical 103 51 81 29 28%
TOTAL: 5,421,221 3,416,281 3,212,731 2,132,238 69%
Note: 1 terabyte = 50,000 trees made into paper and printed. Upper estimates assume information
is digitally scanned, lower estimates assume digital content has been compressed.
Source: SIMS

Other sources of worldwide information include:

  • Landline and mobile telephone calls contained 17.3 exabytes of new information if stored in digital form, representing 98 percent of the total of all information transmitted in electronic information flows, most of it person-to-person.
  • Original radio and TV broadcasts accounted for 70 million hours, or 3,500 terabytes, and 31 million hours (70,000 terabytes), respectively.
  • The World Wide Web contains about 170 terabytes of information on its surface — in volume this is 17 times the size of the Library of Congress print collections.
  • Instant messaging generates 5 billion messages a day (750 GB), or 274 terabytes a year.
  • E-mail generates about 400,000 terabytes of new information each year worldwide.

Story courtesy of CyberAtlas.

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