Personal Audio Recorder

Jakob Nielsen, web usability guru, has written a speculative article on what the next 30 years in computing will bring (found on Slashdot). He suggests that, in about 25 years, a personal computer will have enough hard disk space to record every second of your life in HDTV-quality video.

That got me thinking – you can get a lot of the benefits of that system by recording your whole life in audio. And you’d only need to record your waking moments (snoring doesn’t really make for fascinating listening.)

Speex can record perfectly intelligible voice at 8 kbit sec-1, which is 1KB sec-1. 60 x 60 x 16 x 365 x 80 = 1,681,920,000 seconds in a life. It all shakes out at 1,681GB.

That’s not actually very much. If your 20GB iPod implemented Speex compression, you’d only have to get a new one (or dump the data to DVD) every year. This technology is actually here today; all it needs is the right UI. More on that later.

5 thoughts on “Personal Audio Recorder

  1. Isn’t it bad enough with people like Paris Hilton et. al. taping themselves in the bedroom?

    Can you imagine everyone doing that?


    There is a list of maybe 100,000 people I wouldn’t mind… but for the rest. ;-)

    Even if it were just audio. Some things you just don’t need to archive.

    Watching TV? I think not. Boring.

    Also time in the bathroom (25% of a man’s life, more if he’s lucky). Very unnecessary. I doubt anyone will want to go back and listen to that quality poo.

    But I could see taping every moment of a wedding, or going back watching your childhood, or some other special moments.

    Would also make the life of a psychologist a lot easier. Instead of probing for the source of the problem, just watch the childhood DVD and look for anything unusual. Perhaps by then a computer alogrithm will be derived to speed that up (perhaps make notes of the events in an index, that could be searchable).

    Just random thoughts on the topic. I’d bet 90% of life isn’t worth taping (hence we don’t even remember it). But that 10% is.

    So I guess I’ll go grab my old reel to reel and head to the bathroom and record a memory. :-D

  2. I’d bet 90% of life isn’t worth taping (hence we don’t even remember it). But that 10% is.

    But you’ve got to tape the lot to make sure you get that 10%… The point is that disk is already so cheap that you can archive everything, whether you need it or not.

  3. The real problem would be to find some good way of retrieving (i.e. indexing) the data. It is ok having it there, but being able to find what you want would be very important to make the system in any way useful.

  4. Hi Gerv —

    I think you’re overestimating the intelligibility of sound recorded with an unobtrusive mic. Witness the difficulties people with hearing aids have in crowded environments. I suppose the users could wear “extra ears” for their recorder though ;)