Physical Storage vs. Digital Storage

Last time we did one of these, we wanted to show you how much data we create with our digital lives. Now we want to show you how data storage has changed over the years. It’s pretty mind-blowing. Enjoy!

physical storage vs digital storage

  • gratis

    Wow, nice infographic!

  • Simon

    Nice diagram.

    -1 for reference to MacBook Pro.
    Could’ve just said average hard drive?
    Apple fanboys >.>

  • ian

    quality not quantity

  • kmonk

    that’s lovely but there’s more out there than just ipods and imacs, this should be titled- “Physical Storage vs Macintosh Storage”

  • Jo Radakovich

    Nice work!

    Cassettes went to 120 minutes though. If I recall 12″ played at 16RPM went past 44 minutes.

    Thanks for posting this.

  • subcorpus

    staggering … !!!

  • gregg

    In the 80′s a CD stored cda files… I have put 10.5 hours of MP3 on an 800MB disk!

  • Kyle

    120 GB * 1024 MB/GB = 122880MB / 700MB/CD = 175.54 CDs. There’s no reason you can’t store audio in the same format whether you use hard drives or compact discs.

  • imran

    thats really amazing.

  • fuckoff_maccie

    Stinking Mac fanboyism!!!

  • Alitimate

    AWESOME! very nice article! very well laid down!

  • Cananito

    It is indeed mind blowing, yay on digital storage!

  • Ian

    I’m curious about ‘ VHS = 3.5 hours’. The standard tape I used to buy was an E-240 size i.e. 240min or 4 hours.

  • andrew

    Interesting…a little confusing at first because of the whole wax cylinder thing. didn’t know what that was. I was hoping that I would see a massive mound of paper and then a cd next to it…still cool.

  • Fduch

    Shameless Apple advertisement ruined good idea.

  • Steve

    That really is mind-blowing – and beautifully presented. Thanks!

  • wisd0m

    Your math is all wrong. 5GB does not = 87.5CD, 87.5 CDs is closer to 68GB. Please re-check all numbers, as most of them are wrong.

  • Benjamin

    This is awesome. I featured it on my site today, The Daily Harangue…

  • John


    He’s not calculating the amount of data a CD can hold, just how much music you can fit on it. If you don’t use MP3 CDs, then you would need 87.5 CDs to get the same amount of music as 5 GB of MP3s.

  • Anonymous

    wisd0m: The math used is 1 CD = 80 minutes of Audio which is correct. 117 hours / 80 minutes = ~87.5

    My question is, how did you arrive at 117 hours for 5GB? That implies an mp3 bitrate of ~102kbps which is nowhere near average. Back when 5GB mp3 players were releases, the average bitrate used was either 128kbps or 192kbps which provide 93.2 hours or 62.1 hours of music, respectively.

    And I agree with others, there was no need to use only apple products in coming up with these numbers. Any generic laptop or mp3 player would have done.

  • rty

    The math isn’t taking 800mb cd and shoving it into a 5gb ipod, it’s ripping the audio to mp3 and comparing the TIME not the SPACE. 1.2hrs into 117 hours

  • Marshall

    Doesn’t this assume that all of the compression is lossy with regards to music? On a good system, a compressed MP3 is often distinguishable from an uncompressed file played on a regular CD. So there’s always some tradeoff…

  • aas

    “quality not quantity ”

    Because once you put a book on the internet, it instantly loses quality, due to…word degrading…yeah.

  • Honour Chick

    i lol’ed. nice!

  • Hans Chr. Kauder

    It says there are 10 billion photos on facebook, and that that is 10.000.000 albums, but you say that an album is 2×50 photos, so there are 100.000.000 albums on facebook… A 0 got lost in the mix.

    Pretty cool though.

  • Bern

    Prettey pretty, but bimply counting playing times is kind of forgetting half of everything.
    Since the CD also contains digital data, counting the ipod’s 5gb would really count as 7 cds worth of data.
    MP3s are a lossy encoding, it should not so blatantly compared with the CD. Same thing going from the 12 inches to CD.

  • niball

    Get a life.

  • Professor Quality

    Records have extremely higher quality and CD audio.
    Assuming the average 12″ record is ripped to 2GB of audio, a DVD only holds 2 records.
    120GB only holds 60 record-quality records, which is nowhere near 83.3 days of audio.

    Enjoy being awed, clueless people.

  • Vincent


    Watch your unites.

    5GB = 117 hours of audio = 7020 minutes of audio. Using his posted conversion of 80 mins per CD, 7020/80 = 87.75 CDs

  • bob

    you need to revise said math… also use generics…

  • Jonathan Hollin

    Regardless of whether or not the math is wrong, the infographic itself is gorgeous and very thought provoking. Nice work.

  • William

    Yeah, don’t know that you really got the numbers straight…

  • Mac Daddy

    Whats wrong with reference to Apple Ipods and Mac Books? After all they ARE the market leaders … and thats what we are talking about here! In 20 years time we will be amazed at storage capacities … Microsoft will be long dead and gone by then … Apple will still be here … leading the market!

  • Gawlf

    He’s not talking about data storage on a CD, wisd0m, but about time of audio that can be recorded on its tracks.

    Anyhow, I agree that even if this analysis is actually shocking, it’s also partial and stinks of Mac advertisement…

  • Richard

    Cool stuff. I’ll be using these in my Basic Computer Technology class today. Thanks.

  • BabySinister

    heh macdaddy made me chuckle

  • Stochastic

    What’s up with mentioning mac?? Mac has nothing to do with it because they use the same flash memory and same hard drives the rest of the world can get. But since you mentioned mac, I would discourage anyone from using Itunes or Mac because they want to control your data with DRM rending your music virtually worthless. Mac not only wants to control your data, but the hardware you choose to use their OS on, and the software you are allowed to install on the Iphone, and the phone service, etc. Why would anyone want that? Stick with a PC running Linux.

  • DanO
  • Adrienne

    Oh my gosh, what high school did you go to?

  • saaa

    What a dumb picture. Sorry, you can’t compare digital to analog when it comes to storage. You’re implying a CD and Vinyl hold the same audio information and that a minute of CD audio is equal to a minute of vinyl audio.

    Or that all DVDs carry video encoded all at the same bitrate.

    Or that apple is the only manufacturer of overpriced computers.

  • Icecream Truck

    How do you distinguish between ‘physical storage’ and ‘digital storage’? Anything you store on digital media is also physical, it is tangible and occupies 3 dimensional space, until the time comes that would allow us to store data invisibly.

  • Chris

    Excellent chart. Gives a great visualization of what data actually is!

    As per the mac references, they’re FINE! The whole objective is to give the average consumer a reference point. EVERYONE’S heard of the iPod, it’s not a big deal. WHO CARES?!

    Maybe the PC people are just jealous that they don’t hold a candle against Apple when it comes to consumer brand-name recognition.

  • Jennifer Schaffner

    This is great. I suppose the hard part, though, is figuring out how much it will cost to preserve all the good digital data and migrate it forward. Work so far indicates that real digital preservation will cost staggering amounts.

  • hey

    Nice giant ad for your site…

    the info is already free though

  • Kevin H
  • fionn

    Looking at the backups at Wikipedia — they only take just over 3 Terrabytes. That’s a lot of current knowledge in a very small space.

  • imbusy

    Nothing about the recording quality was mentioned. In that case a Blu-ray disk is the same size as a DVD, instead of being able to store about 10 times more information. This sucked.

  • design

    VHS = 3.5 hours? Never heard of a 210 min tape before. Only seen 60, 120, 180, 340 and 400 min tapes. Of course that is only blank tapes, pre-recorded stuff would be cut to the length of the movie.

  • Anon

    The MacBook Pro is listed with “entry-level” in italics, as if to emphasize. Can we realize here that 1) No Apple product is entry level, 2) If we were going to pick an entry level computer from Apple, it would be the MacBook, not the MacBook Pro, 3) Most people in the country cannot afford a MacBook (much less a Pro), 4) Apple is NOT the industry leader, and does not attempt to be.

    For a standalone institution such as Mozy, I am incredibly disappointed to see such an absurd support for Apple products.

  • Math

    The average of 60, 120, 180, 340, and 400 is 220. Could be the source of that number.