From the archives: "This CD ROM can hold more information than all of the papers here below me."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The story behind the photo:
"In 1994 I shot a story for National Geographic called the Information Revolution. For one of the pictures I was trying to illustrate the power of digital storage and came up with the idea of showing how much information can be stored on a CD. At the time, it was 330,000 sheets of single spaced 8x10 single pieces of paper. (Now, through compression programs it's much more.) A large paper manufacturer in the northwest had donated the paper but the question of where to put it all remained. We thought we'd lay out the sheets in a grid pattern in some vast warehouse but when I did the calculations I found that even the largest building in the world, the nearby Boeing 747 hangar in Everette, Washington couldn't contain the picture I had in my mind. My assistant at the time, a former bartender, came up with the idea of stacking the paper like bar napkins and running a cable up through the middle with a steel plate at the bottom. It sounded like a concept so ridiculous I knew it would be the perfect solution."

Bill Gates, an early proponent of CD technology was receptive to the idea of sitting atop the stacks of paper - much more than I thought he would be. The shoot, which took about a month to organize and turned out to be outrageously expensive (nearly a $100,000), would be jeopardized if he suddenly and understandably backed out. After carefully explaining to Bill in an email what I wanted to do the bit baron wrote back, "Let's do it." We rigged up redundant systems because I was pretty sure my insurance policy wouldn't have covered him.
Bill Gates, Co-founder of Microsoft illustrates the storage capacity of a CD

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