Friday, September 14, 2007

Thinking inside the box

Great headline in the Times the other day: "Redefining the Architecture of Memory," about a possible quantum leap (I feel like the hack in The Last Samurai who uses scientific terms willy-nilly) in data storage:

If an idea that Stuart S. P. Parkin is kicking around in an I.B.M. lab here is on the money, electronic devices could hold 10 to 100 times the data in the same amount of space. That means the iPod that today can hold up to 200 hours of video could store every single TV program broadcast during a week on 120 channels.

The headline recalls what might be the metaphor, for me—the mental building as storage place for mnemonics, as described in Frances Yates's The Art of Memory. The story is fascinating—will we walk around with the contents of an entire college library clipped to our belts?—and I like how it goes from the best metaphor to this one (which I suppose is not actually mixed):

"Stuart marches to a little bit of a different drummer, but that's what it takes to have enough courage to go off the beaten path," said James S. Harris, an electrical engineering professor at Stanford University and co-director of the I.B.M.-Stanford Spintronic Science and Applications Center.



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