I recently mentioned a parable about grains of rice and a chessboard. If you were industrious enough to try your own interweb search for [parable 64 squares grains] you might be ahead of me. Or you may have known the parable already. For the rest of you, here’s the deal.
Stripped of the narrative, it’s about taking a chessboard and placing a single grain of rice in the first square (in some versions, it’s a grain of wheat). In the second square, place two grains of rice—double the amount in the first square. In the third square use double the grains of the second square. For each square on the chessboard, use twice as many grains of rice as used for the previous square.
I’ll come back to the punchline, but I stripped the narrative. Let me fix that.
I’d planned to do this later, probably for Sideband #64, but in honor of my parents 64th wedding anniversary (2 parents, 64 years, okay!) this numerical rumination gets queue-bumped to now.
Just recently I wrote about 64-bit numbers and how 64 bits allows you to count to the (small, compared to where we’re going) number:
264 = 18,446,744,073,709,551,616
That’s 18 exabytes (or 18 giga-gigabyes). Just to put it into perspective, if we were counting seconds, it amounts to 584,942,417,355 years; more than 500 billion years! (That’s the American, short-scale billion.)
A long, long time ago on a USENET far, far away, I was part of a debate that started with the idea that, even if we had disk drives with 64-bit addressing, people would still fill them up with videos, images and whatnot.
The idea grew from some of us old-timers reminiscing about our first brick-sized 5-meg hard drive and how we thought, “Gee, I’ll never fill that up!” (And look how that turned out; I have single image files that wouldn’t fit on that drive!)
The premise was that, even with seriously gigantic hard drives, we’d still manage to fill them and need more, more, more…