Humankind will generate over one sextillion bytes of digital information this year, surging into the realm of the “zettabyte” as we create ever more electronic data.
In 2010, 1.2 zettabytes of digital information will be created, according to a new “Digital Universe” study from IDC sponsored by IT firm EMC Corporation.
A zettabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes (that’s 21 zeroes for those counting).
A byte is a unit typically consisting of eight “binary digits,” or bits. Bits are either a one or a zero and represent the basic building blocks of digital information.
For a comparison, an MP3 song file is about five megabytes, or five million bytes (six zeroes), and a gigabyte – a still decent-sized chuck of information at about 200 songs – is a billion bytes, or nine zeroes.
Put another way, one zettabyte equals one trillion gigabytes, or a playlist of approximately four-minute-long MP3s – assuming about a megabyte per minute – that might last you until the year 1,902,589,529 give or take a few thousand thousand millennia if you opt more for two-minute Ramones tunes versus Tool prog-rock opuses.
The rapid expansion of this digital universe is courtesy of the boom in recent years of online video sites such as YouTube, social networking sites such as Facebook, plus reams of digital photography stored at Flickr and cell phone-produced data piles.
Even during the recession of 2009, the glut of digital information expanded 62 percent over the previous year to 800 billion gigabytes.
As we officially enter the zettabyte era, we leave behind last year’s 800 exabyte-mark (a quintillion bytes, or 18 zeroes), blow past the petabyte (a quadrillion, or 15 zeroes), and trounce the terabyte (a trillion, or 12 zeroes).
According to the study, and as one might have guessed, 1.2 zettabytes is a heck of a lot of data.
A zettabyte-plus would just fit on 75 billion of the 16 gigabyte-version of Apple’s iPad. If all these tablet computers were jammed together, they would fill the Dallas Cowboys’ new monster stadium all the way up to the dome enclosure almost 16 times. …