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A report published Wednesday by the University of California, San Diego, calculates that American households collectively consumed 3.6 zettabytes of information in 2008. The paper — entitled “How Much Information?” — explores all forms of American communication and consumption and hopes to create a census of the information we consume.
I’ll be honest: this is the first time I’ve ever used the word zettabyte. I’ve heard of petabytes and even exabytes, but zettabytes are a whole new level of bytes. If a zettabyte is beyond your comprehension, too, it’s essentially one billion trillion bytes: a 1 with 21 zeros at the end. To put that into perspective, one exabyte — which equals 1/1000 of a zettabyte or 1 billion gigabytes — is roughly equivalent to the capacity of 5.1 million computer hard drives, or all the hard drives in Minnesota.