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Americans take in 34 gigabytes of information a day

Forget megabytes, the US as a whole consumed 3.6 zettabytes of information in 2008.

By / December 10, 2009


Many joke about America's diet. But the nation that invented super-sized meals has a similarly voracious hunger for information.

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A new study from the University of California, San Diego, finds that the average American in 2008 took in 34 gigabytes of data and 100,000 words per day.

The United States as a whole digested 3.6 zettabytes of information last year. Never heard of "zettabytes"? (We had to look it up.) A zettabyte is equal to a million-million gigabytes.

Another way to think of it: According to the study's authors, 3.6 zettabytes is equivalent to all of the "information in thick paperback novels stacked seven feet high over the entire United States, including Alaska." And America's data gluttony has grown 350 percent since 1980, the study says.

How did the researchers come up with these astronomical figures? They crunched numbers on US consumption of TV, radio, telephones, print, computers, video games, movies, and music.

About half of the words we see and hear (44 percent) come from television. Americans, after all, spend 4.9 hours a day sitting in front of the tube.

Computers come in second place, delivering 26.9 percent of our daily words over 1.9 hours.

The full study can be found here.

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