Data Powers of Ten







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This one of several cool little documents I used when teaching math.  I was also the de facto computer teacher for the middle grades and they came in handy there too.  The other documents are also posted on the home page. I'm not sure where I got this but it's been very useful and I've updated it along the way.  I particularly like the one where 1TB (terabyte) of information is equal to 50,000 trees worth of paper.

This page is very good for putting some perspective on computer capabilities along with binary numbers and how computers actually work.  It also rolls in exponents and vocabulary, since all the prefixes are Greek or Latin.  If you're wondering where those weird prefixes come from, see the Origin of units page.

This is solid (but largely forgotten) core learning that can be useful in a wide variety of subjects and settings. There are co-curricular possibilities with social studies, science and language arts. They can supplement class work or homework, especially if you are need to challenge some of your advanced students.  In addition to the traditional classroom, home schools, charter schools and online education can all benefit from this kind of content. It really comes in handy.

The numbers are so big they are almost incomprehensible.  When you get into the exabyte range, you're talking about the sum total of human knowledge and conversation - and yet, we are approaching the day when we will use them.  Fifteen years ago, the memory on a PC was measured in KB and storage in MB.  Now, PC's have GB of memory and TB storage is available (and fairly inexpensive).  An I-pod stores as much as a main frame did 20 years ago.  The new mainframe super-computers are now in the PB range. Who knows where it will end?  Maybe a better question is "Who knows where it will lead?"

Data Powers of Ten

The following list is a collection of estimates of the quantities of data contained by various media. Each is rounded to be a power of 10 times 1, 2 or 5. The numbers quoted are approximate. All numbers represent even powers of 1000, even though a kilobyte is actually 1024 bytes not 1000 bytes, a megabyte is 1,024,000 bytes, etc. With numbers this big, the minor variances are irrelevant and it makes calculation and estimation a lot easier.

        Bytes(8 bits)

        0.1 bytes: A binary decision

        1 byte: A single character

        10 bytes: A single word

        100 bytes: A telegram OR A punch card

        Kilobyte (KB) (1000 bytes)

        1 Kilobyte: A very short story

        2 Kilobytes: A Typewritten page

        10 Kilobytes: An encyclopedic page

        50 Kilobytes: A compressed document image page

        100 Kilobytes: A low-resolution photograph

        200 Kilobytes: A box of punch cards

        500 Kilobytes: A very heavy box of punch cards

        Megabyte (MB) (1 000 000 bytes)

        1 Megabyte: A small novel OR A 3.5 inch floppy disk

        2 Megabytes: A high resolution photograph

        5 Megabytes: The complete works of Shakespeare OR 30 seconds of TV-quality video

        10 Megabytes: A minute of high-fidelity sound OR A digital chest X-ray

        20 Megabytes: A box of floppy disks

        50 Megabytes: A digital mammogram

        100 Megabytes: 1 yard of shelved books OR A two-volume encyclopedia

        200 Megabytes: A reel of 9-track tape OR An IBM 3480 cartridge tape

        500 Megabytes: A CD-ROM 

        Gigabyte (GB) (1 000 000 000 bytes)

        1 Gigabyte: A pickup truck filled with paper OR A symphony in high-fidelity sound OR A movie at TV quality

        2 Gigabytes: 20 yards of shelved books

        5 Gigabytes: A DVD

        10 Gigabytes: An 8mm Exabyte backup tape

        20 Gigabytes: A full digitally re-mastered collection of the works of Beethoven 

        50 Gigabytes: A floor of books

        100 Gigabytes: A floor of academic journals 

        200 Gigabytes:   

        Terabyte (TB) (1 000 000 000 000 bytes)

        1 Terabyte: All the X-ray films in a large technological hospital OR 50000 trees made into paper and printed

        2 Terabytes: An academic research library

        10 Terabytes: The printed collection of the US Library of Congress

        50 Terabytes: The contents of a large Mass Storage System

        Petabyte (PB) (1 000 000 000 000 000 bytes)

        1 Petabyte: 3 years of NASA Earth Observation Satellite data

        2 Petabytes: All US academic research libraries

        20 Petabytes: Production of hard-disk drives in 1995

        200 Petabytes: All printed material 

        Exabyte (EB) (1 000 000 000 000 000 000 bytes)

        5 Exabytes: All words ever spoken by human beings.

        Zettabyte (ZB) (1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 bytes)

        Yottabyte (YB) (1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 bytes)