Introduction to Computers with Ubuntu Unity
Long Term Storage

Page in a state of development. Not ready for listing in TOC.

Current Formats

Long term storage exists as a way to keep all sorts of information in an accessible format while the electricity to your computer is off.

This page will probably be most interesting to history buffs. At any time, new long term storage formats may become available. Just as often, once-popular formats will go out of favor.

If you have a photo of some antique computer storage hardware which you are willing to share using the Creative Commons CC-BY Attribution license, I will happily include it. Please send your image in the best resolution you can to algot[at]runeman[dot]org. You will be credited for your contribution.

The current (2016) "standard" kind of personal long term storage is the hard disk drive. In most situations, the drive is mounted inside the case of a computer and is not intended to be replaced for the life of the computer.

hard drive hd insides

The mechanical drive spins a disk made of a hard material coated with a magnetizable material. The information of a file is stored as "bits" with some tiny magnetized regions of the disk coating pointed "up" and others pointed "down" in a representation of the binary coding that is used in computers.

Solid State equivalents are replacing the drives which spin a disk. Spinning a disk takes more energy and, in spite of careful manufacturing, there is a chance that a drive will get bumped hard enough to scratch the disk surface, destroying the information stored there. Current solid state drives fit inside your computer case using the same space and connectors as the rotating disk drives that they replace.

The Cloud is really just the same kind of technology you might find on your local computer, but instead of being on your computer, the data is on somebody else's hard drive, solid state drive, etc.

There are benefits of cloud storage.

Concerns about the cloud:

Removable Storage provides portability, security and redundancy.

The Past

Before the Personal Computer

The Future
Research is always under way to develop computer storage which is more dense so more information fits the same space and to make it faster to write and read back the data and to make it reliable for longer.

What's on the storage horizon?

Bit Width - CPU Speed
A byte is sometimes referred to as "eight bit" for the number of switches of "width" a CPU can handle. This is not exactly the same as storage. Bit "width" concerns the flow of data from storage to execution to display as well as being important for execution speed: instruction size.

The first personal computer CPU from Intel could only handle half a byte, four bits at a time. Since then, we have moved to 8-bit CPUs, then 16-bit, then 32-bit which is still commonly in use in 2016, though the most current PC hardware is built with 64-bit CPUs. The bigger the bit width, the faster the computer can process the application instructions and the data.

Storage Terminology

Bits, Bytes and Beyond

Binary 1000
Given that computers count in binary instead of decimal, the actual number of bytes per kilobyte is equal to 1024 when written as a decimal number. Since this can be seen as too picky for general conversation, it is common to just say a kilobyte is a thousand bytes, a megabyte is one million bytes instead of the more accurate 1,024,000 equivalence. Save yourself the time of an argument. If you want to argue back to your computer, remember it isn't listening...yet.

ASCII - Binary - Hexadecimal

Within computers, the information is represented by switches which are organized in 8-switch groups which we have been calling bytes. The CPU and other components are designed to work with each byte-size block of data. Internally, the switches get turned off and on much more rapidly than a human could switch a mechanical wall switch. Still, a wall switch and the switches in the computer go off and on in just the same way. The coding of the computer is called "binary" because bi- (like the bi- in bicycle with two wheels) means only two states are possible, binary logic. ASCII and UTF-8 work within the scope of binary logic. The image below describes how switches can be on or off to represent different codes. The capital letter "M" is coded as binary 01001101 which we call ASCII code 77 because that's how we think in decimal numbers. Don't worry if this stuff makes no sense to you. You do NOT need to understand the details of ASCII, magnetic coding or binary to work with a computer every day. The point of mentioning it here is to give you a few more terms for those geeky conversations you want to have with all your friends.


Hexadecimal The four bits to the right are used to count from zero to fifteen (0-15). The four bits to the left are used as a separate count of completed counts of 16. Hexadecimal reduces space by counting up to 15 in a tricky way (0 - 1 -2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - A - B - C - D - E - F). It goes up to nine as usual, but then A means you are at 10, B is 11, C is 12, D is 13, E is 14 and F is 15. Whew! Hexadecimal or just "Hex" can represent decimal 255 with just two characters, FF. FF means (15*16) + (15) which is the same as 255 once you multiply and add.

© 2016 Algot Runeman email- Shared using the Creative Commons Attribution license.
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