Tuesday, July 27, 2004

27 July 2004: Toaster

What is the mysterious object shown above?

My initial reaction, upon seeing Nick open the box in front of me here in Bay 10 yesterday, was that it was a toaster. And it could well be, except for the fact that it has USB and firewire connections, and nowhere to put the bread. Perhaps even, given its cost of £600 and the fact it was paid for by AKT (well-known for Artificial Intelligence innovations), it could be the legendary Talkie Toaster from Red Dwarf. As Nick plugged it in, I expected it to say... "Howdy doodly doo!"

But it didn't.

Instead it fired up, one by one, a series of internal disks, until after a short period of time there was, plugged into Nick's laptop, a removable hard disk of size one terabyte. What's a terabyte? The fact that you don't know how much a terabyte is just shows how big it is. It's big.  It's a thousand gigabytes, or a million megabytes, or over 1428 uncompressed music CDs. Uncompressed. And it's the size of a toaster.

Why am I telling you all this? Partly because you're bored (you wouldn't be reading this blog otherwise) and partly because of the implications for certain technologies. If I can fit one and a half thousand CDs on to this beastie - and lets face it, it's new, so from here on they're only going to get smaller, cheaper and increase in capacity - then this is the death of MP3, or MPEG movies, or any kind of compressed media format. You just won't NEED compression soon.

Of course, we're just going to be using it when I'm sent to Penn State University to get the Citeseer data and source code in a few weeks. Nothing like a mundane use of an exciting new technology to kill the imagination. But mark my words, this is the beginning of the end of compressed media.

Toaster kills MP3.

You heard it here first.

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