I find it pretty easy to take for granted the amazing feats computer engineers pull off these days, mainly because they’re too small to be visible. It often helps my understanding to have an analogy on a larger scale.
For example, according to this article, a new portable storage device for digital cameras / MP3 players has improved efficiency by shrinking the space between the reader and the media. Their analogy is that this increased shrinkage is akin to a Boeing 747 flying a millimeter above the earth’s surface.
Think about the control here. A device moving quickly enough to read data is so amazingly close to the actual media that the slightest deviation would be enough to cause the two to collide and probably destroy them both. But instead, the technique is reliable enough to allow for consistent data storage.
A 747 flying a millimeter above the ground. Now that’s pretty amazing.