One of the most enduring jokes in the Friends television series is the one where Chandler (of Bing fame) flaunts his new company laptop. Bing says, in episode 208, “The One With The List”, with great last-century pride:
“All right, check out this bad boy. 12 megabytes of RAM. 500 megabyte hard drive. Built-in spreadsheet capabilities and a modem that transmits at over 28,000 bps.”
In 2010, of course, we have several brands of chewing gum with greater processing power per packet than Bing’s laptop. Five hundred megabytes? That’s the size of just one of the many fully legally obtained movies I have on my computer at home.
These days hard drives are no longer measured in gigabytes or even megabytes. Now we have terabyte-sized hard disks. Terabyte (TB). Yeah baby. Sounds like a fearsome dinosaur. Or a Transformer robot.
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In reality, a 1TB hard drive can handle as much data as 2,000 of those Bing laptops. And all that within the form factor of nothing larger than a slim paperback novel. While I don’t actually own a TB-sized drive at home, I have several smaller ones that add up to 2-3TB.
These drives contain years’ worth of documents, photos, music, movies, DVD backups, software, office files from many jobs and so on. Hardly any of the folders are ever accessed (but you never know when you want that Form 16 from 2004, no?).
Disk jockeys: Forget megabytes. Hard drives are now measured in terabytes.
Except for the multimedia. The movies, music and photos get frequent viewings especially on the weekends, or when the family wants to go over that hilarious moment during the wedding when I fell into the badam milk.
But this raises a problem. Watching these movies on a computer screen is fine. But if you really want to enjoy them there has to be a way to get them on to your TV. Especially if you have an LCD or Plasma display. How wonderful it would be if you could browse through your collection from the familiar interface of your TV?
Till very recently there weren’t too many ways of doing this without buying a lot of cables and dongles and making your TV look like a nuclear power station. One way was to hook up a computer display to your TV using an S-video cable that replicated the computer’s display on your TV screen.
But then you had to keep the computer on, plug in the drive, get the right S-video cable (there are at least two types), and still run to the computer if you wanted to change a movie or rewind, and so on.
A recent personal discovery was using a regular USB pen drive and one of those portable DVD players. These players have cute little screens, play most optical discs and are perfect for holidays.
Some of the better ones also play media off USB pen drives. A few years ago I bought a model that not only played off a USB stick, but also had a “video” output jack. So you could hook it up to a TV and watch whatever was on the USB stick. The player came with a remote. What heavenly bliss it was.
Till one realized that every time you wanted to change a movie or the music, you had to run to a computer with the USB stick and delete and cut and copy and paste. And run back.
And then everything changed when I bought an Amkette Flash TV device after seeing an ad on Facebook.
The Flash TV is cheap, cute, white in an Apple-like kind of way and plays almost anything you throw at it. All you need to do is connect an entire external hard drive into the matchbox-sized device. It lets you browse through the collection, gigabytes in size, with a little remote and play anything you want with a click of a button. At Rs2,990, without the cost of an external hard drive, the Flash TV is fantastic value and highly recommended.
If you want something higher up on the quality-price curve you can try a WD Live TV that does everything the Flash TV does just a little bit better at around double the price.
But expect this space to hot up. Intel is already working on a device that beams your computer video and audio wirelessly to your TV. And there are hard drives on the market that have video outputs built in.
If you like to hoard your multimedia but hate having to deal with all the connections and wires, help is now at hand.
The TV, computer and hard drive are now on speaking terms.