Monday, May 19, 2008

Movies To Go

There are a few ongoing developments in the computer field that have been making a big difference in many of the devices and services that we now enjoy or soon will enjoy. One of the fastest developing facets of digital electronics is the increasing capacity of storage devices.

For many of us who have been using computers for more that 25 years, these developments in data storage technology have truly been nothing short of amazing. Remember the floppy disk? One of the earliest and most common storage media for many years was this “double sided” plastic disk that could hold a whopping 360,000 bits or 360K of information. If you had two floppy drives in your computer, you thought you had died and had gone to heaven, since you had all the room you would ever need to save your digital stuff. That floppy disk was about 6 inches square and about as thick as a 45 RPM record. (Ask your mom or dad what that is.) Today, a 1 gigabyte Smart Card™ holds more than 2700 times the amount of information as was possible on the floppy and is about the size of a postage stamp. Two and five gigabyte cards are commonly available and 1 terabyte drives are becoming more and more commonplace. A terabyte is 1000 times larger than a gigabyte.

Enough about size. But does it matter? Yes it does. I read about a new service being developed in Europe that will install small unattended self-contained kiosks in public places each loaded with first run movies. These kiosks, the size of a soft drink machine, can hold thousands of full length feature films. Rather than dispense the films on a DVD or videotape, which would require a physical supply of each of the movies within the machine, the device downloads the requested movie to the consumers memory stick. A two hour high definition format movie can be loaded in less than 30 seconds.

The user takes the memory stick home and plugs it into a $50 adapter connected to the TV and voila, a movie. The user can choose how many “plays” he or she wants to purchase. Once the plays are exhausted, the memory stick erases itself and is ready for another title.

What makes this all possible is the advancement in storage capacity. An affordable kiosk is now available with enough disk space to hold more than 5000 movie titles. That is more titles than a standard BLOCKBUSTER® store has on the shelves. The consumer memory stick, available at most drug stores for less than 10 bucks, can hold an entire movie.

Look for other services that will hit the market made possible by affordable storage technologies. Devices like GPS systems already have more in depth information on travel destinations. Not only does the GPS tell you that there is a Holiday Inn® at the next exit, it gives you a look at the menu at the next door restaurant.

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