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John C. Dvorak is a fucking idiot

Filed in: media, tech, Wed, Nov 26 2003 02:36 PT

John C. Dvorak

You heard me. More people should. But this is really more about how increasing hard disk storage can still be an amazing thing for humans than it is about a clueless, washed-up commentator.

Like many people who have been in technology for seemingly too long, I have had the misfortune of having to read Dvorak’s op-ed columns, and even had to fast-forward past him on the televised News.com. He’s sort of the Andy Rooney of technology, a crotchety old know-it-all who makes up for his ignorance of the topic with cock-sure delivery. Less savant, more idiot.

I’m not even talking about his recent dumb-assed blogging rant. What really got me going last week was an article called Hard Disks and the Media PC, in which he brings out Dvorak Template Number 4: I remember back when five megs of storage cost so much that only the ten richest kings of Europe could buy them. Now they’re too big and cheap! This strange new world of technology confuses me. Therefore, I must poke at it with this stick until somebody does my research for me. Apply in the discussion forum!

Hang ’em up, John. Your prognostication skills started to falter when the big questions of the day were MFM vs. RLL, or EISA vs. MCA. If you can’t answer the question of what to do with new technology, make room for someone who can. Here’s my attempt.

2005: 640 gigabytes
Having moved past floppies, CDs and DVDs for backups (you do make backups, right?), operating systems have implemented journaling filesystems, allowing users to protect years’ worth of versioning of their products. At this point, the average user is utilizing about 0.01%, maximum, of their hard drive for their own data, but that’s changing: 5-plus-megapixel cameras and DV camcorders suck up gigs like they’re going out of style, and with the space available to the ordinary user, nobody is complaining — or deleting.
2007: 1.28 terabytes
We’re now pushing 25 cents per gigabyte. Media centers are now ubiquitous; the concept of swapping out DVDs or schlepping to Blockbuster is vaguely foreign. Disney, Sony and Microsoft have media centers that store existing DVDs and are able to download new ones as they’re purchased. TiVo-like functionality is an afterthought, often built directly into the TV. You can’t burn your shows or movies to removable media, but hey. Life’s a bitch. You might be able to transfer a couple hundred hours of entertainment to a handheld personal server, containing a terabyte of storage, 802.15 wireless networking, and the ability to handshake with a dizzying array of display and input systems, such that you can go to a friend’s house and choose what movie to watch from the union of all that’s available on everyone’s personal servers. Or browse the Web on that HDTV that finally doesn’t need to stretch analog signals until the actors’ faces look like they’re imprinted on Silly Putty.
2013: about 10 terabytes
We have reached the projected maximum that will fit on a magnetic medium. Unfortunately, the Internet has not scaled in bandwidth proportionate to the hard drive. Manufacturers and media outlets have responded by storing much of their content on the drives before they ship: a next-generation twist on the sneaker net. At this point, your $250 disk can hold 1000 DVDs and 10,000 CDs, all stored losslessly, and still have a couple terabytes left over to record a large chunk of recorded history.
Beyond
I really am hoping that one day I will get to say to some kid, “you know, the knowledge that you possess in that (device/implant) used to be split across millions of different computers spread all over the world,” and have that kid look at me like I told him universal translators didn’t exist. If you believed in the public domain, here is where you’re going to wish it were still a reality. But this information nervous center will probably be controlled via a device-level digital rights management mechanism. Your device is the sum total of the data you have constructed over the years, and it has grown so massive that it needs to be attached to an intelligent search mechanism to be manageable. As problems go, you’re still probably better off than when you had to go to the library to browse the Yellow Pages for Lubbock, Texas.

There. Was that so hard? Yeah, kind of. It requires some kind of conceptualization of advances in technology, market shifts and imagination that, you know, might make it interesting and valuable to read.

A new generation of technologists — optimists, even — are running rings around Dvorak. It’s time to let them through. It was a good run. Well, it was an okay run. But at this point, the only one being served by John C. Dvorak’s opinions is John C. Dvorak.

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