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The Stickiness of Decisions

March 11, 2010 8:06:23.837

Way back when data was stored on floppy disks (and then hard drives measured in tens of megabytes), a decision was made on formatting - creating 512k blocks for data storage. Fast forward to today, and that seems ridiculous - but the standard is still there (especially for Windows users), and it's about to cause a bit of grief for people still using XP - hardware vendors are moving to 4k blocks to eliminate some of the wasted space issues:

To help Windows XP cope, advanced format drives will be able to pretend they still use sectors 512 bytes in size. When reading data from a drive this emulation will go unnoticed. However, said Mr Burks, in some situations writing data could hit performance.

Never mind whether you should move from XP to Windows 7; what this really points out to me is just how persistent some early decisions end up being. A mostly arbitrary choice in how data is formatted on a storage medium back in the early days of the PC is still with us. Legacy hierarchical databases are still with us. Choices being made now about how to communicate data over HTTP (like JSON) will still be with us twenty years from now too - because lots and lots of stuff will be written to those APIs.

When you sit back and think about it, it looks like a lot more thought should go into this stuff :)

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posted by James Robertson

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