OBITCHUARY: USB Drives
By Chris Becker, Illustration by Jaycee Checo I dropped my USB flash drive in the snow the other day. A year or two ago, I would have panicked—that little magic stick carried my entire digital life. But this time, I didn’t even break a sweat. Water can no longer damage my docs—they all safely float on the cloud.
When USBs launched into the computer market in 2001, the amount of storage space on a drive seemed absolutely ginormous compared to the 1.44 MB floppy that came before it. Entry-level USBs had over 128 MB: not only could you store the final draft of your book report on Holes, you could store the first and second drafts, too.
Fast forward a few years and USB drives were the main method of storing and transferring documents. Sizes had increased dramatically (4 GB became the norm), and you could purchase your own memory stick at WalMart for $14.99. These bad boys held a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother, and the 300 grainy, out-of- focus pictures you took in the basement of DKE on Saturday.
But a recent invention chopped down the proverbial rainforest and changed the tech ecosystem forever. Our plastic buddy’s heart monitor shows a steady line while the white and puffy assassin looks down.
You’ve probably heard the term “cloud" and most likely use it on a daily basis. Hilariously, nobody really understands what the cloud actually is. Ask an IT guy,
and he’ll start to explain. But you’ll tune him out in five seconds and start thinking about that funny cat picture you tweeted a couple seconds ago.
The great part about USB drives, though, was that we did understand. You could physically hold your data.Your files lived on a device that you could put in your pocket, throw in your bag, or forget in the Kimmel computer cluster after printing out a syllabus. Creative companies would manufacture drives in the shape of robots, animals, or best of all, bottle openers.You had complete control. Now, with the cloud, you’re at the mercy of the geeks running the servers on the other end, meaning that if Tommy Intern trips over the power cable, you’re screwed until they plug it back in.
Sure, magical services like DropBox or Outlook can save your ass when you forget to print out that psych paper. Sure, most services will give you 5 GB for free, which is infinitely cheaper than the $19.99 you’ll spend at the book store for a plastic drive with Otto’s face plastered all over it. And sure, cloud services automatically create backups of your files, and conveniently allow you to access them on your computer or mobile phone. But with a USB drive you can still access your files when AirOrangeX is being a pain in the ass.*
*This article almost didn’t make it into the issue because the writer couldn’t connect to the cloud on AirOrangeX.