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OPINION: Move Over, Blackberry

Remember the floppy disk? I haven't had one on any of my computers that I routinely use and I don't miss them at all. They still are on a couple of machines in my lab, but mostly they are there for historical, not functional reasons.

Maybe I am getting too old for this industry -- When I started at PC Week back in the late 1980s, a colleague was using one of the original 360-KB floppies as his personal hard drive, filling it up and then deleting files on it when it was full. (No one ever told him, until I happened along, that the disks were removable and plenty more could be had for the taking in the supply closet.)

Back in the late 1980s, having a 1.44-MB floppy disk was a big deal, because you could fit all of your spreadsheets on it and still have plenty of room to spare. Then came 100 MB Zip disks, and I could fit everything I wrote on it with room to store the huge Outlook e-mail file that archived my digital life. After that we had recordable CDs, which hold about 700 MB, and at the time seemed unfillable too.

But mere megabytes is so over. These days, gigabytes is what is needed. And there are some interesting choices that you have to make. If you can get by on less than a gigabyte these days, the USB flash "keychain" drives are the ticket. If you need more, then you probably already have an iPod. It has become the runaway big disk of choice for everyone from teens to nerds. In fact, it is doing better than the PDAs that were supposed to archive our digital lives.

The vast majority of the current iPod owners buy them for the music storage, of course, and the ability to play their tunes wherever they are. Over the holiday break, it seemed like every teen I knew had received one and spent the holiday filling it up with music. But this year and next we'll see a growing number of people who use them as offline storage for more mundane files, and the ability to carry them around with you means your data is never too far from your person. That brings an entirely new dimension to the concept of personal storage. And that was the problem with the original Palms: They skimped on raw disk space.

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