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Occasionally Relevant Insights from a Software Builder

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A Terse Guide to Big Numbers

When I started my adventure in computers in school in the 1980’s, we were using Apple II’s and Commodore Pets which had around 64K of memory. My first computer in 1984 had 128K memory and a 360K floppy disk drive, which seemed like quite a bit of storage for the tiny apps that were built back then. Over the years, memory and storage sizes have increased greatly. In the 1980’s at the University of  Alberta, a friend of mine showed me a 500 MB hard drive which was the size of a large garbage can. Today, my iPhone has a 32 GB of storage space and it fits in my pocket.

Disk/memory storage and computer speeds are increasing rapidly over the years. 1 TB hard drives are common today and soon we’ll be using multi petabyte drives. I should note that the following numbers are not referring to bytes (as my post may suggest), but to decimal numbers, so kilo is 10^3 and not 2^10. That could be another post …

BTW … when I say 10^3, this means 10*10*10 = 1000, 10^6 is 10*10*10*10*10*10 = 1 000 000, etc. That’s enough math lessons for today.

10^3    kilo
10^6    mega
10^9    giga
10^12    tera
10^15    peta
10^18    exa
10^21    zetta
10^24    yotta

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