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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Storage Demands Flash Memory Industry

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By MAY WONG
AP Technology Writer

Consider Apple's original iPod, which started in 2001 with a 5-gigabyte hard drive. Today, Apple has models ranging from the pencil-thin iPod Nano that holds up to 4 gigabytes using flash memory, to a video-capable iPod holding up to 60 gigabytes on a hard drive.

Flash memory makers have been doubling capacities about every nine months, says Celeste Crystal, an analyst at market researcher IDC. They're squeezing more bits of data onto cells in their silicon chips as well as developing new ways to stack layers of cells in the same amount of space.

The capacities of hard drives, which use spinning magnetized disks, have been doubling nearly each year. After decades of cramming more and more bits of data closer together, physical limitations are kicking in, so now the industry is switching to so-called perpendicular recording. By flipping the bits of information to stand vertically rather than horizontally, hard drive capacities are again on track to keep expanding.

As a result, consumers are closer than they've ever been to seeing a terabyte of storage in the 3.5-inch hard disk drives found in mainstream home computers.

Later this year, consumers will see PCs and backup-storage devices with 750-gigabyte hard drives - a 50 percent increase from the previous industry maximum of 500 gigabytes and many more times greater than the megabyte drives of the 1980s.


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