from the jukebox-of-alexandria dept
Most people will be familiar with Moore's Law, usually stated in the form that processing power doubles every two years (or 18 months in some versions.) But just as important are the equivalent compound gains for storage and connectivity speeds, sometimes known as Kryder's Law and Nielsen's Law respectively.
To see why, consider that the IBM PC XT had a 10 Mbyte hard drive when it was launched in 1983, which meant you couldn't even fit a single song on it. Similarly, the first widely-used modem, the 1981 Hayes Smartmodem, had a maximum speed of 300 baud: to transfer a digitized song using a dial-up connection would have taken around 500 hours.
With those kind of figures, it's easy to see why the recording industry underestimated the threat that file sharing would become once the Internet arrived: based on the past, it was almost inconceivable that people would ever swap music between computers. Of course, once that did start to happen, and the shape of the future became obvious to many, the industry nonetheless wilfully ignored the facts and the trends at every turn, when instead it should have taken the lead in re-inventing media for the Internet age.
That woeful history of refusing to accept the implications of rapidly-advancing technologies makes this prediction, found via Slashdot, even more fateful:
Technologies that will make it possible to expand disk density include heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), which Seagate patented in 2006. Seagate has already said it will be able to produce a 60TB 3.5-in. hard drive by 2016.
Assuming Seagate or someone else delivers, that 60 terabyte hard disk could store around 10 million typical MP3 files. A year ago, Spotify was said to have 15 million tracks, which means that you could store most of today's Spotify on that future Seagate drive. Spotify is likely to grow even larger by 2016, but it probably won't grow as fast as the storage capacity of hard disks, so there will be some point in the not-too-distant future when you can place all of its holdings on a single hard disk: Spotify in a box.
Obviously, few people will choose to do that, but storing your favorite million songs will not only be realistic, it will be cheap -- and even portable. Provided the transfer rate to and from such disks also keeps up with the growth in capacities -- an indispensable technological requirement, otherwise they become impossible to use -- this means that people will be able to move around huge collections of music, without ever touching an Internet connection. That makes all those three-strikes plans moot, since you won't actually need your broadband line in order to swap files with friends. You'll just plug in your portable hard drives to a common computer and exchange stuff directly (as probably already happens with today's terabyte-sized portable disks.)
In an ideal world, we would also see a kind of constant scaling of the intelligence of the recording industry, such that by 2016 it would finally accept that trying to stop sharing -- whether online or off -- is simply pointless. Somehow, though, I think we'll just have to make do with the other variants of Moore's Law.