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I'm thinking a tree that just stores one or two characters of each entry hash per node.

If we just store one character per node, that's 64 characters (base 64 hash), that means we can store one 64-bit offset per character to get a 512 byte block per level.

Of course big reads on a HDD are good, so maybe it'd be better to store 2 characters together, which gets us 4096 combinations, meaning 32K per node.

That would mean (up to) 6 reads before a new value could be added.

The problem with all this, and the part where I get confused, is that we want to preserve the order of our entries. Do we need a separate file for that, or what?