If Snow Blowers were like Hard Drives…

…I would have been able to get this one for about 23 cents.

As it was, I picked it up at Sears on Black Friday for $419, or about 40 percent off.

That 23 cents figure is just a guess, and is probably way high, in the snow blower/hard drive comparison of prices and capabilities over time. My dad bought his first snow blower about 40 years ago, and I think he paid about $500. In today’s dollars, that would be about $2,800. Even though my snow blower today isn’t as heavy duty as Dad’s was, getting it for about 13 percent of the price, in constant dollars, is pretty good.

That is, until you compare it to electronics, and particularly my favorite example, hard drives.

Last year I wrote about my brother-in-law, Lane’s, experience in buying what seemed then a massive hard drive in the mid-80s, and how I had bought a hard drive that had 200,000 times more capacity (1 terabyte or 1000 gigabytes) for $70 at a Black Friday sale. I also suggested that smart SMUGgles should mark their calendars for 11/26/10. I predicted that they would be able to buy a 1.5 terabyte hard drive for about $70.

I was wrong.

It was even better: Target had a 2 TB desktop drive (400,000 times what Lane bought) for $69, and a portable 1 TB drive for the same price. I just took a photo instead of buying a drive, because I have about 500 gigs of free space on my drive from last year. I applied that $69 toward the snow blower, a more pressing need.

I think I’ll wait until 11/25/11 to get another hard drive, when I should be able to get 3 TB (or more) for $70.

Anyone want to join me?

Proving Moore’s Law

I’m fascinated by hard drives.

I have been ever since the mid ’80s, when my brother-in-law, Lane, and I both had Apple IIe computers with 128K floppy disks, and he blew me away by getting a 5 megabyte hard drive to store data for his farm bookkeeping program.

The cost: $1,800. And it seemed unfathomable he would ever fill it.

Moore’s Law (from a paper Intel co-founder Gordon Moore published in 1965) suggests that computing power (or data storage) that can be purchased for a given price doubles every 18 months.

In this post, based on my recently acquired custom of Black Friday hard drive shopping, I want to prove Moore’s Law for you.

I usually get up early on the Friday after Thanksgiving to take advantage of the electronics sales, and one place I typically go is Staples. Two years ago, I bought a 500 gigabyte hard drive there for about $70 (after rebate.) That was 100,o00 times the storage Lane bought in 1986 for about $3,700 in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Last year, I bought a 600 gigabyte drive, again for about $70. Especially with my use of the Flip video camera, my “need” for storage has increased.

This year, I bought a terabyte drive (1,000 gigabytes) for $70. So in essence I got 200,000 times the storage Lane bought 23 years ago, for less than 2 percent of the price.

Granted, this was a door-buster sale. But even at full price for one of these drives, it’s mind-boggling.

And actually, I didn’t just get one drive; I bought two. In addition to the terabyte drive, I got another 500 GB drive that is powered by the USB connection. That makes it extremely lightweight, so I can carry it with me at all times in my laptop bag. As you can see in the photo below, it’s not much bigger than a classic iPod.

500 GB Hard Drive with iPod

And just to put it in further perspective, here are the two drives I bought on Black Friday, with a total of 1.5 terabytes for $140:

375 Hours of Flip HD Video Storage

But here’s the main takeaway/action point from this post, and how it applies to you:

Mark your calendar now for 11/26/2010 at 6 a.m. If Moore’s Law holds (as it has for 44 years), you should be able to get a 1.5 terabyte hard drive at Staples for about $70.

With HD video consuming about 4 GB per hour, you can never have too much hard drive space.