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FROM HIGH TECH TO MALL TECH

High Tech: Data storage
Mall Tech: Keyring storage

EMERYVILLE, Calif. - When EMC Corp. chief executive Joe Tucci joined the high-tech industry in 1970, a data-storage computer the size of a washing machine held 19.2 megabytes of information.

 

The DiskOnKey Pro, sold at the Bay Street mall here on the San Francisco Bay, now holds nearly seven times as much data. The tiny 128-megabyte device attaches to a key chain, stores about three dozen songs or more than 100 digital photos, and sells for $69. Some similarly sized devices by Iomega Corp. and other manufacturers found in other malls can house up to 1 gigabyte, or 1,000 megabytes, of data for around $400.

The capacity for data storage has skyrocketed since Tucci joined the industry, even as prices and the amount of space needed to keep the data have plummeted. Some of the gizmos near the top of this year's holiday wish lists are testament to how far the storage industry has come.

The FranklinCovey store is filled with hand-held computers by PalmOne Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. A case on the wall holds flash memory cards for backing up your hand-held computer's contents and for storing digital music and software. About the size of a postage stamp, the flash cards range from a 16-megabyte card for $10 to a 128-megabyte card for $90.

But the real advances in consumer-oriented storage are on display across the courtyard at the Apple Store. Apple Computer Inc. 's iPod is a souped-up portable hard drive for playing music. The $499 iPod, the biggest of the three Apple offers, packs 40 gigabytes of storage into a luminescent white device only slightly larger than a deck of playing cards. That's enough to hold about 10,000 songs.

``Forty gigabytes was a decent sized company 15 or 20 years ago,'' said Steve Duplessie, a senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group, a research firm in Milford, Mass. ``Today it barely holds all my consumer interest for a few hours.''

Case in point: the shelves of digital video recorders in the nearby Magnolia Hi-Fi store. After a mail-in rebate, the 40-gigabyte TiVo recorder costs $200, and the 80-gigabyte system costs $100 more. The competing systems by ReplayTV cost $50 less.

Storage hasn't simply gotten smaller and cheaper - it has also gotten massive. The Symmetrix DMX3000, the biggest data-storage system sold by Hopkinton's EMC, sells for $4 million and is about the size of three refrigerators pushed together.

The DMX3000 holds 84.5 terabytes - or 84.5 million megabytes. Major banks and phone companies use the systems to store mind-boggling quantities of information about their customers, said Chuck Hollis, vice president of storage platforms marketing for EMC.

But if they used those systems like a consumer might, these companies could use their EMC systems to house more than 155,000 digital copies of the film ``Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle,'' or more than 21 million songs downloaded from the Internet.

``Boy, wouldn't that be a lawsuit?'' Hollis said.

Chris Gaither can be reached at gaither@globe.com.

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