An Entirely Frivolous Way To Measure Data

[lexie] is a librarian, and librarians live in the real world. They’re not concerned with vague digital notions about the size of data, but practical notions of space. Thus, she created a tool to answer an important question: how long do your shelves need to be if you’re storing all your information on 3.5″ floppy disks?

It’s a great question, and one we find ourselves asking, well, pretty much never. [lexie]’s tool is also built using modern web technologies, and 3.5″ floppy disks were never really used for bulk storage, either. It just makes the whole thing all the more frivolous, and that makes it more fun.

You can key in any quantity from megabytes to exabytes and the tool will spit out the relevant answer in anything from millimeters to miles as appropriate. Despite the graphics on the web page, it does assume rational shelving practices of placing disks along the shelves on their thinner 4 mm edge.

We’d love to see a expanded version that covers other storage methods, like tape, hard drives, or burnt media. It could actually become pretty useful for those building their own mass storage farms at home. With CHIA cryptocurrency that could become more popular, even if it does run us all out of hard drives along the way. Altnernatively, you might consider hooking up a floppy controller for your Raspberry Pi.


23 thoughts on “An Entirely Frivolous Way To Measure Data

  1. The first thing that I found out (accidentally) about this site is that the amount of data that you may request to store is signed.

    It is fun seeing “This much data would need -2402986 mm (or -94605.75 in) of shelving” instead of “This much data would need 2.4 km (or 1.5 miles) of shelving” for -1 and 1 TB of data, respectively, though.

    1. Pretty cool, if you need to cut precisely, just prepend ‘-‘. If not, cutting at kilometer (mile) marks is good enough.
      Once you download the entire internet, emoji works too

      “I have 1024 EB 🤯This much data would need 2,580,187,286.5 km (or 1,603,254,050.4 miles) of shelving.”
      Some 17AU as no one will notice.

  2. This really gives you some perspective. I was just having a panic about how I may need to add to my 4TB of desktop storage soon, and this site has further stoked my anxiety by providing me with a mental representation of what that amount of storage might look like. Why do I need over six miles of storage?

    1. I have a 1TB PCIe SSD system drive, four 1TB hard drives inside the computer, four 4TB external drives and one 6TB external all connected by USB 3. I also have an 8TB external to connect but it needs an AC plugin.

  3. The code had two bugs:
    1. A ceil was applied because “you can’t have partial floppies”, but it accidentally clipped the millimeters instead of the number of floppies.
    2. The actual size of a DOS-formatted 3.5″ HD floppy disk is ~1.406 MiB, not 1.44 MiB (The labeled capacity is a weird combination of decimal and binary size definitions and is 1440 * 1024 bytes.)

    Fixed version here:

        1. Almost all media can have different capacity.
          Iomega has 100MB, 250MB, and 750MB.
          Even a 3.5inches floppy can be single or double sided, and depending on the formatting, can have varying capacity.
          Or first CD were 650MB ish, and latter can be overburned to 800MB.
          So it’s more to stay in the spirit of this funny weblet than precise measurement.

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