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Visualizing data as distance: Wikipedia's a long, long drive

The storage space in an iPhone 6S equals how many boxes of paper files? Stretch your brain with these vistas of data.


Click on the above image to see the full Visualizing the Size of Databases infographic.

Better Buys

It's a good thing Wikipedia's online. Because it would take 3.3 million boxes of paper stretching 781 miles, the distance from Chicago to New York, to hold all the data it contains. And that could really, really crowd your home office.

And that slim CD that's laying on your desk? It's no size slouch either. The 700 megabytes of data it holds would fit into 70 storage boxes filled with standard-size paper covered with data printed in a 10-point font. Lined up, those boxes would reach 87.5 feet, almost the length of a basketball court.

Better Buys, which helps businesses find, research and compare software to match their needs, has worked up an infographic that physically visualizes the virtual storage space of products including an iPhone 6S, the master Netflix catalog and a typical desktop computer in the year 2016. And the site gave CNET a first look.

This isn't, of course, the first time someone has translated digital data into real-life images or objects -- data visualization is all about making number and stats more tangible -- but it's always crazy to think of bits and bytes in terms of physical space. The infographic is also a good reminder of how far storage has come since the measly little 1.44 MB floppy disk, which would equal a mere 280 pages, according to Better Buys.

The most mind-bending stat of all? All those exabytes of Google data would need so many storage boxes I'm afraid writing the number here might actually break the Internet.