And the ordinarily mundane storage sector is revitalising all sorts of other areas. Recently, Toshiba launched an 0.85-inch hard drive. What possible use could this have, I hear you ask? Well, the drive is designed to be incorporated inside the new generation of mobile phones. Toshiba and others hope mini- drives will replace the more expensive and lower capacity flash memory in handheld computers and mobile phones. Their drives will hold 2-4 gigabytes. IDC says over 250 million mini-hard drives for these kinds of device will be shipped this year.

Not to be outdone, Sony is revamping an older technology to introduce a new Walkman that expands the recording capacity of its mini-discs, allowing up to 45 hours of music to be recorded on a 1 gigabyte disc. The new format would replace today’s minidiscs. The machines will sell in the summer for about the same price as current mini-disc Walkmans.

And the memory revolution is extending to the world of personal digital assistants (PDAs). Orange has brought out the new Handspring Treo 600 PDA/Camera phone which gives a choice of moving data to a high-capacity memory card or backing up data via the phone network itself. It’s connected devices like these which could gradually do away with the requirement for physical storage.

It’s not just music and mobiles that are being made over with this kind of mega-capacity. My laptop’s hard disk is crammed with digital photos of my six-month-old son, taken with a digital camera with a capacity of 256 megabytes. But what will the world be like when there are no more photos fading inside shoeboxes? Where everything you do or say, everything you create, can be recorded and stored on some magnetic spinning disk somewhere? Perhaps we’re already there.

Originally published in the Irish Times, 23/1/04