I recently saw an old Sci-Fi movie where one character uses the word “terabyte” as though this is some enormously large quantity of data. And, of course, it is, at least here in 2013. But the movie was set several centuries from now. By that time, I doubt a whole terabyte would impress anyone.
Terabyte comes from a Greek word meaning “monster,” as in a terabyte is a monstrous amount of information. It’s equal to one trillion bytes. After terabyte comes petabyte, exabyte, zettabyte, and finally yottabyte. The prefix “yotta-” comes from the Italian word for eight and means 1,0008, so a yottabyte equals one septillion or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes.
And yet centuries from now, even a yottabyte might not seem like a lot. It’s rumored that the NSA has already collected several yottabytes of data for its surveillance programs. I suspect this is a slight exaggeration (emphasis on slight) but it does prove that the term yottabyte is already becoming part of our vocabularies.
So what comes after a yottabyte? According to my research, yottabyte is currently the largest amount of data that we have an official term for, but some people have already proposed the word brontobyte for the next level. I presume a brontobyte is so much data that it’s as big as a brontosaurus.