Friday, December 28, 2012

Storage Capabilities of the 8.5x11

A former student of mine had an instagram that inspired a dorky series of tweets between the two of us touting the features of this amazing new technology: the sheet of paper. I was trying to be sarcastic because I hadn't seen a sheet of paper in so long, writing all my essays and lesson plans and everything digitally.

The series of tweets:
The sad tale of an engineer attempting to write an essay. 
 what is that thin white note taking device in front of your laptop? Is that a new Christmas present? Wireless? Bluetooth?
 It's the newest in pressed wood pulp. Functions without a processor and get's great battery life!
 what kinda storage? 200Gb?
 college ruled, 56 lines, expandable to margins. Also compatible with multi-ring long-term storage devices.
 wow 56 lines! I was only familiar with older 33 line models.

Anyway, taking it a step too far I'm sure, I decided to investigate the storage capabilities of a simple sheet of paper. To begin, I found a sheet of paper -- though it took a while. I also had to find a stylus that was compatible with the paper -- after a handful of failed attempts, I found one with enough battery left (you can always count on Sharpie models!) to input text:

I counted the number of characters on each line, including spaces and punctuation.  I found 63, 62, and 65 characters on each line, and so I'm going to average them and suggest that a typical line stores 64 bytes. I'm thrilled this is a power of 2 -- it makes me confident that it's technology, because everything else in technology comes in powers of two.  Let me save that number in memory as 2^6.

After counting the number of available rows, I found another convenient power of 2, or 32 lines.  2^5.

Multiplying these numbers together, I get 2^11 bytes, or 2*(2^10).  2^10 is 1 KB, and so one side of one sheet of paper is 2KB. Utilizing both sides of every sheet of paper yields the following storage capabilities for the following standard models:

70 sheet 1 subject sprial notebook:  280 KB
100 sheet looseleaf unbound package: 400 KB
500 sheet ream of paper: 2 MB

Of course, using different fonts and font sizes could significantly increase or decrease storage capabilities.    

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