Ready For a Whole Yotta Storage?

Maybe if I knew what it was...

Last week, David Roberson, senior vice president and general manager of Hewlett-Packard's StorageWorks division, predicted in an article at that the storage industry will soon be shipping a yottabyte of storage capacity every year. If you're wondering what a yottabyte is, it's precisely 1,000 zettabytes.

Glad I could clear that up.

I feel like Rip Van Winkle. I kept up with bits, bytes, kilobytes, and megabytes. Sometime around gigabytes, I stepped out for a moment to make a sandwich. When I got back, it was 20 years later (technologically speaking; in real time, about 15 minutes), and people were throwing around "yottabyte" and "zettabyte" like every kindergartner knew what they were, and the stupid pop-up Windows dog didn't recognize me anymore. Yes, I'm still using that version.

Working for a technology magazine, I'm surrounded by knowledgeable folks who are gracious enough to get me up to speed in the world of storage. However, as an editor and word snob, I'm a little offended by the direction the language is going. Normal people will shrug and say, "Yottabyte? Okay" and add it to their lexicon without a further glance (by the way, a yottabyte is a billion gigabytes—we're talking big-league capacity here). Zettabyte is old hat, of course.

I have to object, though. What kind of measurement is "yotta?" Who's in charge of this stuff anymore? The metric system was working fine, wasn't it? Even if giga- was a departure from convention, at least it looked and sounded official and techy. As a unit of measurement, a yotta sounds like a way of counting goats in some arctic tribal society. Zetta is a little better, but not by much. It sounds like a brand of sunglasses, but it at least flirts with sounding technical.

I think my distaste comes from a childhood misunderstanding of what technology would become. Having been born in the mostly analog 70s, when everything had big clunky knobs and awkward casings to hold unwieldy, inefficient machinery, I grew up expecting future technologies to have a certain look and feel. The more advanced technology gets, the more streamlined and razor-edged it should be, right? Cars are supposed to get more pointy-looking and lower to the ground as they get faster. Knobs should become buttons should become touchpads should become holographic representations of buttons floating in midair.

Of course, much of what I expected didn't come to pass. Cars look like jellybeans, and people are trying to get them to run on corn. Knobs have mostly gone away, except in this case: "Yotta" is a clunky knob of a word. It's not streamlined or pointy, and certainly doesn't represent the bleeding edge of our advancement in storage capability. Save it for goats, in my opinion.

I can't be alone in this, can I? Surely some of you out there at least get what I'm saying, even if you think I'm wrong (or completely stupid). I say we start a movement to rename the yottabyte.  Let me know what you think—can you come up with a better word for the largest unit of storage capacity any of us have ever heard of? Do you think I'm crazy or infantile for even mentioning it? Leave comments either way; I need to get acclimated to this strange new world I've woken up in. Be right back, looking for a beard trimmer.

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