Stored data continues to swell

November 5/12, 2003

Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley have added up the amount of new information the world stores each year in print, film, and magnetic and optical computer media, and the numbers are staggering.

In 1999 about 2 million terabytes of new information were created. In 2002, the production rate jumped to 5 million terabytes, or 5 exabytes, an increase of about 30 percent per year. And this doesn't count copies -- just originals.

Ninety-two percent of the new information is stored on magnetic media, seven percent on film, 0.01 percent on paper, and 0.002 percent on optical media, according to the researchers' study.

Five million terabytes divided by 6.3 billion people is about 800 megabytes of information, or 160 times the complete works of Shakespeare, produced per person per year. Five million terabytes of information on 1.4-megabyte floppy disks makes eight piles that reach from the earth to the moon.

The average academic research library contains a mere 2 terabytes of information; the Library of Congress, with 19 million books and many volumes of papers, has 10 terabytes. Five million terabytes is equivalent to half a million libraries of Congress.

The U.S. led the information explosion, producing 40 percent of all new information, 33 percent new print information, 30 percent of new film titles, 40 percent of information stored on optical media and 50 percent stored on magnetic media.

The industry-funded report is online at

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