data - what is it worth?A few years ago - let's say 6 - a personal computer was the same $2,000-3,000 it is now. It was not as fast, it was not as flat (as in screen), and it did not come with 160GB drive, but the price per certain "level" of a computer has remained largely stable over the years. What has changed, however, is the value of the personal data located on this computer. Even someone like me, who has been keeping computerized records, typed papers, and archived email would think of the price of the computer as being non-trivial, compared to the value of the data. Largely, I think this stemmed from the fact that so little of our lives really was represtend by the data stored on the silicon insides.
Lately, in the last 2 or 3 years, I think, the paradigm shift that came to Fortune 500 companies 20 years has finally hit home. My pictures are on the computer. My original pictures are on the computer. Records - original and often only records - of a significant portion of my financial transactions are on the computer. Oh, and I need over a hundred CDs just to make a single set of backups of all of my data. Suddenly, I realize that I care a lot more about my data than I do about the hardware and software. Those I can replace, but my memories, held fast in the circuitry, are impossible to get anew.
I believe, and not many people would be surprised by that conclusion, that what drives the incredible growth in purchases of external hard disks, DVD writers, and other data-dissemenating technologies is not the drop in their price, not alone anyway, but the increased preimium we now place on the data stored on our personal PCs. The external and internal hard disks may be very cheap by historical standards - but they are still $200-$300. Yet people who would never spend that amount of money on a dinner, or a new iPod, considering former extravagant and latter frivolous, will plunk down money for a new external drive.
What prompts this ruminations? My desktop power supply seems unable to support my 80GB drive added to the system a few days ago. Before I knew of the problem, I already ordered an external 250GB drive. Now, I wish I also ordered a separate enclosure for the drive my PC won't support...