Someday, you’ll be able to fit as much data in a small, square CompactFlash card as AT&T carries on its entire network in a week.

In theory at least, version 5 of the CompactFlash standard will allow CF cards to hold 188 petabytes of data. By comparison, that’s equivalent to 188,000 one-terabyte drives, sufficient capacity to contain 2.7 million hours of HD video (two centuries’ worth of the porn industry’s annual output) or more than 7 days’ worth of AT&T’s daily traffic, which currently averages 18.7 petabytes. With that kind of storage, you’d only need five CF cards to stash all of the data currently stored on all the hard drives in home computers in the state of Minnesota. (Data comparisons courtesy of UCSD’s 2009 How Much Information? study.)

CompactFlash cards are the chunky, heavy-duty memory cards that would have gone obsolete years ago except for the fact that they’re used in high-end cameras. All pro photographers use them, so all professional SLR cameras support the technology, in a vicious circle that will keep the technology alive long after everyone else has forgotten it. Unless, of course, they need to stash massive amounts of data.

The current standard, CompactFlash 4.1, limits the cards to a relatively paltry 137 GB, due to the limits of its addressing scheme. In practice, the largest CF card you can currently buy is 64 GB, but that’s still larger than the largest SDHC card, which is 32 GB. The theoretical maximum of the latest SD standard, SDXC, is 2 terabytes, although no one uses these cards yet.

The new CF standard uses 48-bit addressing, which raises the theoretical memory limit to an eye-popping 188 petabytes. We figure it will be quite a while before storage technology comes close to pushing that limit, however.

And by then, you’ll probably have exabytes of ultra-high-definition 3-D home videos that you’ll want to keep track of, meaning that a paltry petabyte card will look just as puny as a 1-GB card does today.

(Via DPReview)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons, poorly butchered by the author

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