Time and Space Tradeoffs in Version Control Storage

I spent a few hours cleaning up my e-mail archives yesterday. I was amazed of the amount of space that was taken up by 4MB flyers for events I did not attend, 2 MB PDFs of one-page forms that I could have printed out from a 3kb HTML page, and batches of photos (@1MB each) that students sent me to chronicle their participation in group activities.

If someone is sending me a document because they want my feedback on the design, or if I want to add a family photo to an archive, then of course the high bandwidth is justified.

But I can’t be the only one who’s annoyed when someone sends me a 500kb Microbloat Word file that contains nothing but a 20-word thesis statement, or a list of URLs.

In our everyday routine, disk storage is cheap and plentiful. It’s good that we don’t have to worry about what to keep and what to toss. I bought a 16 GB memory card for my 30GB tablet PC – it was dirt cheap to add that much extra storage. But there are times when an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I’ll never work with data at the file-compression level, but I learned quite a bit from this very clear explanation from someone who knows about such things.

In physics, we know that matter and energy
are interchangeable.  In computer science, we know that time and space are
interchangeable.  Usually, we can find a way to make things faster by using
more space, or make things smaller by taking more time. — Eric Sink

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