by Graham Pierrepoint
IBM world-record breakthrough crams 330TB of data into palm-sized tape cartridge
If you need proof of how much technology has advanced over the past thirty years, you only have to look at the way we store and use data. While it’s unlikely you’ll actually need any proof at all – we’re using touchscreens and streaming movies directly from our TV sets, for starters – it boggles the mind to think that, less than three decades ago, we were using huge, clunky hard drives that stored as little as 3GB per unit. Some Windows 98 PCs in the late 90s even held this amount of disk space, period – less than twenty years ago. Now, however, we’re able to purchase Micro SD cards the size of our fingernails to insert into devices the size of our wallets. It really is an incredible evolution that doesn’t get much attention.
However, it appears that Sony and IBM have been working on a cutting edge new strategy to make data storage get even smaller – or slimmer, at the very least. While we may be a few decades away from having data implanted into our own bodies, the next best thing is tape. You read correct – the stuff our old VHS cassettes thrived on. The tape is currently being put to use to help store data scoring high into the terabytes – and you’ll effectively be able to store at least 25GB per square inch of tape. This could mean that spooled-up tape could be flattened and fixed into tiny inserts – which could store terabytes of data at a time.
The creation came around after Sony researched magnetic layers – and found that applying vapor as opposed to liquid onto tape allowed for more data to be stored. It goes to show that old techniques still offer something of a key to the future of technology – as while video and audio cassettes have really bitten the dust (at least in terms of public consumption), this new technique is essentially broadening the scope. If IBM and Sony’s latest venture proves successful, could this mean that we make a bizarre u-turn back to the days of VHS?
It’s unlikely – though there are undoubtedly purists out there who enjoy audio cassettes and VHS tapes more than your average punter, the convenience of blu-ray and data streaming will prevail – but keep an eye out for intensive data taping coming our way very soon indeed.