An odd technological glitch this week highlighted how much legal research has changed. I have a number of RSS feeds set up to monitor topics on Google News. It helps me to pick up things on the periphery of the law library world. ComputerWorld must have been goosing some of its old content, because an article from August 2001 appeared, contrasting Microsoft and Linux. The writer suggests that the Linux-isn’t-fit-for-the-enterprise bugaboo doesn’t work when dealing with smaller businesses: “An 8 T[era]B[yte] storage-area network array is cool, but does the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham & Howe really care about that much storage when their entire law library will fit on the hard drive of the secretary’s PC?” Even in 2001, one might say, “Really?”
The article really doesn’t have anything else to say about the law library. But even at the turn of the century (doesn’t that make you want to say, “Gary Conservatory, Gold Medal Class of Aught Five!”), legal research was relying on massive databases housed in Eagan, Minnesota, and Dayton, Ohio. Sure, a law firm probably could have put most of its research on an 8 TB SAN but it wouldn’t have been big enough to contain the entire electronic equivalent of their National Reporter Series and other publications. Or perhaps it could, since many law firms were probably already ditching their print in favor of electronic resources. But a 2001 hard drive? Please.
It also highlights the change in storage capacity. 8 Terabytes would have sounded tremendous in 2001 (1000 Gigabytes is a Terabyte). Now I can buy a 4 TB small office/home office (SOHO) network attached storage (NAS) device for less than $2,000. That’s 3 TB for music I’m ripping from my CD music collection, 2 GB for work product, and who knows what else for the remaining space. But it’s unlikely to be non-work product related legal research or “my law library”. I want my SaaS Westlaw and LexisNexis to host the data, application, the works.