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What's in store for me?

Computer hard disk storage capacity grows every day even as the physical size shrinks to let you carry tens of gigabytes in your pocket.

THE OLYMPIAN ideal, "Citius, Altius, Fortius", swifter, higher, stronger — needs to be reworked when it comes to peaks of perfection in the information technology business. Consider the business of computer disk storage, whether for the desktop PC, or the portable notebook. No sooner do you install a 40 Gigabyte (GB) hard disk with your hard earned money, than they tell you "Sorry, that is so yesterday. You should have gone in for 120 or at least 80 GB".

Hand-in-hand with this explosion in storage requirement comes a physical shrinking of the storage device. Iomega Corporation, a global leader in data storage, best known in India for its Zip Disk, has just announced that it will release new hard disks in early 2004 harnessing radical new technology called Removable Rigid Disk (RRD). These compact hard disks are aimed at those who want a removable backup storage of their crucial data. Iomega's RRD will be offered initially in a 35 GB version (it can hold 70 GB if the data is compressed). The disk, which packs in all this data, is less than five cm. wide.

Last week, the Japanese giant, Hitachi announced availability by year-end of what could well be the tiniest hard drive meant for hand-held computers, digital cameras, and other portable devices. Hitachi's Microdrive comes in 2 GB and 4 GB versions. The Hitachi drive uses technology, developed by IBM a year ago. The tiny drive is just 2.54 cm. or 1 inch in diameter. The 4 GB version is roughly equal in capacity to a full-length movie in DVD format or 75 hours of digital music.

Size-wise, they would be about the same as the Sony Memory Sticks that have been available here for sometime now. These external memory devices come in a variety of sizes, 128 MB, 512 MB, etc., and can be plugged into the USB port of PC of Notebook. Hitachi's "smallest hard drive" tag may not last the year: Fujitsu has announced that it is working on its own tiny drive, even smaller, that packs a wallop-80 GB per square inch.

Slightly larger are what are known as ZIV drives, which can also be connected to the USB port to provide storage capacity of up to 20 GB. The flat ZIV measures about 12 cm. across and can easily be slipped into a shirt pocket.

Shrinking storage to these sizes does not come cheap. The Hitachi 4 GB Micro drive, for instance, is priced at $500, more than what you and I would pay for a budget PC. But those who make these devices will tell you that the storage costs around 10 cents (Rs. 5) per megabyte — in case that makes you feel better. In the Olympian stakes of computer storage, the "mantra" is clearly, "smaller, denser, pricier!"

A. VISHNU

(vishnua@hotmail.com)

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