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IBM Says Polymer Memory Could Be Ready By 2005

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  • by xintegerx (557455) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @07:50PM (#7805457) Homepage
    It's more than one "mer".

    (Forecasting clueless Best Buy employees trying to sell computers.)
  • 5X Cheaper? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 9Nails (634052) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @07:52PM (#7805473)
    Somehow I doubt that I - Mr. Consumer - will see the 5X price drop. I won't hold my breath.
    • Re:5X Cheaper? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lurker412 (706164)
      Probably not. On the other hand, you will only have to pay twice as much for the 10x memory that all the new products will require ;)
    • Re:5X Cheaper? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bstadil (7110) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @08:14PM (#7805589) Homepage
      If history is any guide indeed you will.

      The interesting point about the semiconductor market that makes it different from almost anything else is that it pay's to drive down the price as your cost decreases.

      The reason being that the market thereby grows at a much faster rate, more than compensating the price drop. Remember Profit in $ is Unit profit * Unit.

      Just look at Cell Phones as a good recent example. Industries has repeatedly learned that artificially holding the price high kills you. If interested in more info Google Clayton Christenson + Disruptive technologies.

    • Re:5X Cheaper? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @08:27PM (#7805650) Journal
      You'll see far more than that, if history is any indicator. I've got 64 megs of RAM in my video card, for chrissakes. I have spent upwards of a grand for half a meg of main memory.

      For bulk storage, I can buy disks for less than a dollar a gigabyte today. I spent over a grand for the first one gig drive I ever bought.

      So yeah, you'll see a 5X savings. Count on it.

      -jcr
    • You should hold it! When I got my 1st computer, I got a 16K (yes K) upgrade and that was a TON of RAM (this is not RAM of course). But still it cost a lot more than the 512MB RAM card in my Nokia 6600.

      Of course by 2005, flash memory will be cheaper. I guess the question should be: 5 times cheaper than flash *now* or when it is available?

      Anything that increase the storage for the $ is great!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @07:52PM (#7805478)
    Does this also mean that all the old fogey polyester clothes can be recycled and used for memory? And if so will their absence of clothing be considered flash memory?
    • will their absence of clothing be considered flash memory?

      I'd be thinking something more like Flash RAN (random access nudity?)
    • Does this also mean that all the old fogey polyester clothes can be recycled and used for memory? And if so will their absence of clothing be considered flash memory?

      No, FLESH memory.
      Da dum!
  • Mmhmm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mcc (14761) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @07:57PM (#7805505) Homepage
    And does anyone remember what crazy, non-magnetic-plate memory technologies that IBM was saying in 2001 would be ready by 2003?

    Just checking.
    • IBM (and other big companies) spend a huge sum on long term R&D. They have projects in the lab that will be the hot new thing in 5-10 or even 15 years they hope. Ofcourse many of them will fail, but as long as a few hit big they win overall. And in advanced R&D if you don't have most of your ideas fail you are not being bold enough.
  • by silentbozo (542534) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @08:00PM (#7805517) Journal
    To capture the market, this stuff has to either be:

    1. Cheaper than flash or HDs.
    2. More durable than flash or HDs (or even CD/DVDs)
    3. Be faster than flash/HDs/optical media.

    By the time this stuff comes out, trying to beat one of the three is going to be tough - by that time all of those existing technologies will be VERY mature. I'm already able to buy hard drives for super-cheap, so logically, flash is the intended target. The question is, by the time this stuff comes out, will hard drives become so tiny, cheap, and robust, that it's not flash that is the main competitor, but magnetic hard drives?

    Of course, if IBM wants to give me petabytes of super-stable long-term storage that will fit in a shoebox, and only cost me a few hundred dollars, who am I to argue? At the very least, if it can replace tape, that might be enough to ensure a place for it, assuming optical hasn't totally displaced that market by then...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      by that time all of those existing technologies will be VERY mature

      this is 1 - 2 years' time we're talking about, not 10. granted, technology moves forward quickly, but not THAT quickly. this new tech might not be the greatest thing since sliced bread, and it probably wont deliver on all the hype (like the price), but if it is better than even one of the three other competing technologies you mentioned (and no, it probably wont be obsolete by then), that's still a good thing.
    • by MarkusQ (450076) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @09:09PM (#7805819) Journal

      To capture the market, this stuff has to either be:

      1. Cheaper than flash or HDs.
      2. More durable than flash or HDs (or even CD/DVDs)
      3. Be faster than flash/HDs/optical media.

      Nope. Read The innovator's dilemma [amazon.com]. All it has to do is:

      1. Have room for improvement
      2. Serve a niche market that the others can't
      3. Improve over time into something they aren't
      Micro-computers (to use one of his examples) weren't cheaper (for the power), more durable, or faster than big iron. But they came in smaller increments and could serve markets that the big players couldn't...

      -- MarkusQ

    • by useosx (693652) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @09:13PM (#7805841)
      Hard drives are great, mature technology, however, they--in my opinion--suck big time. First of all, they have moving parts making them prone to sudden death (thus why RAID exists). Second, they're slow as hell hence why people buy SCSI. But even SCSI isn't fast enough. I mean, nowadays the bottleneck for most computing tasks is the hard drive. Give me DDR RAM fast, solid state long-term storage and I'll be very happy.

      As for CD-Rs and DVD-Rs, I burn a lot of them because they're so damn cheap. But I hate it. I once scraped off the surface of a CD-R coaster and almost cried at how easy the stuff flaked off. Not to mention there's no reasonable consensus as to how to properly label [slashdot.org] the damn things. I mean, you can't write on them, you can't label them...the only thing you can do is take a tiny sharpie and write on the inner circle, which doesn't do me much good. Even though there would be cost and size increases, I would love it if CDs and DVDs had caddies a la Mini Discs.

      Yes, I agree these technologies are cheap and mature but I really wish there was some alternative. So, I for one welcome our new micro-millipede masters (terrible name, btw, I have centipedes in my apartment and they freak the hell out of me even though I know they're good to have around 'cause they eat other bugs).
      • by sorbits (516598)

        I have centipedes in my apartment and they freak the hell out of me even though I know they're good to have around 'cause they eat other bugs

        Didn't know the names so found this link [kaweahoaks.com], and they sure as well would also freak me out! :-)

        But the page says: Centipedes require moist habitats. If they are plentiful, there may be an underlying moisture problem that should be corrected.

        Just wanted to bring it to your attention!

      • by Syre (234917) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @07:06AM (#7807490)
        Seems as if you didn't read the article.

        Millipede does have moving parts. The polymer moves under the needles, which read and write to it through heat.

        They also mention that they've designed it to be resistant to external vibrations. Which implies that it could be adversely affected by some types of vibrations.

        It also has an ability to be rewritten only about 100,000 times, apparently, making it not suitable as a hard disk replacement.

        It seems as if this tech at least initially will be good for what IBM is saying it's good for: as a FLASH replacement, at least for some applications. It doesn't appear to be useful as a general-purpose storage device.

        Hard drives aren't going bye-bye all that soon, it seems.
      • I would love it if CDs and DVDs had caddies a la Mini Discs.

        HALLELUJAH brother!

        I've said that so many times that I'm long-since tired of saying it.

        Yes, I agree these technologies are cheap and mature but I really wish there was some alternative.

        I certainly do hate optical media myself, but I like hard drives to a limited extent. I'd be more than happy to use compactFlash for everything if it wasn't so expensive (speed isn't _much_ of an issue for 99% of my storage needs).

        I have centipedes in my ap

    • Hard drives suck for many applications. Compared to all the other silicon parts in a computing device hard drives with their movement fail more often and take less shock than pretty much anything else in a computing device. This is why everything from embedded devices to the MP3 players you wear around your neck while jogging use flash, because it's solid state. I say this because for much of the market (that is not PC's) hard drives are not an option, and that today pretty much leaves flash. If those p
  • I dont know about you, but I am not surprised that some of the Original Star Trek technology is around now, ie Communicator = Cell Phone
    But now we are doing some Voyager stuff, ie polymer memory, although I think voyager had some sort of Biopolymer memory, but still, im secretly pleased by these turn of events

  • Oh yeah! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dark Lord Seth (584963) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @08:01PM (#7805523) Journal
    "Imagine a video camera in which each segment you've recorded is displayed in a directory with a unique file name, instantly accessed, appended or erased at the push of a button," says Christopher Andrews, communications program manager for the Armonk, N.Y,-based company. "If you're on vacation and want to erase an old segment to make room for something new, there would be no need to hunt with 'rewind' and 'fast forward' to find the section of the tape you're looking for."

    Oh yes! And we can call those storage device CompactFlash cards, because they're compact, made of flash memory and card sha... Hey! Wiat a second... Sounds rather familiar...

    • I think it's bigger than that. I'm guessing, imagine having the storage size of a tape, and being able to find data without waiting 5 minutes for it to rewind or fast foward.
    • Oh yes! And we can call those storage device CompactFlash cards, because they're compact, made of flash memory and card sha... Hey! Wiat a second... Sounds rather familiar

      Except that CF tops out at about 2-4GB at the moment, which is maybe enough to store a DV tape's worth of video after DVD-level mpeg compression, which costs a lot to do on a chip in real-time. Keep in mind that DVDs also compress a lot better because there's very little noise; home movies and the like have a TON of noise because the se

  • IPod (Score:3, Informative)

    by herrvinny (698679) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @08:32PM (#7805674)
    Terrific. The iPod could really use this stuff it the new mini ipods. [slashdot.org]
    • Assuming it's Write Only, if the capacity was extremely large in a small size, then everything one downloaded to the device would remain and a small flash memory can be used to keep track of everything, included deleted songs. Perhaps 2005 was too far off, perhaps it's coming in January MacWorld.
  • Ram _I_ want to see. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jestrzcap (46989) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @08:43PM (#7805712)
    I want to see a RAM tech that allows for non-volitle (i.e. keeps its data even without power), and unlimited re-rewrites. This would be a great tech for laptops or PDAs as they could suspend very very easily and boot up to same state. This would be a fabulous tool as battery tech seems to be going nowhere fast.
  • When you think about it memory chips and potato chips have a lot in common.

    Electronic chips get smaller in size the more manufacturers work on them while the memory gets bigger. Potato chips get smaller in size while you eat your way to the bottom of the bag and your thighs get bigger.

    Mmmmm... potato chips...
  • Millipede Project (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lomby (147071) <{hc.inodrabmol} {ta} {aerdna}> on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @08:58PM (#7805759) Homepage
    This year I had the chance to go to the VLDB (Very Large Databases) conference in Berlin. The keynote speech was about this Millipede project.

    I must say everybody in the audience was really impressed: from one side the technological aspects, bordering on nanotechnology, were very interesting. Seeing almost the same principle of vinyl discs miniaturized is really fascinating.
    The other really interesting point is the impact that such a storage system will have for our systems.
    Imagine, you have 10 Tb of space: what will change in the way you handle data? Probabily the first impact will be the disappearance of the deletion of files: why not keep all the old versions of a file if you have all this space? We could use it as we use packet writing on a CDRW. Or what if your iPod could store some Terabytes of data and restit to a lot more of shock (acceleration)?

    The speaker made clear that the storage capacity is huge, but the performances are more or less the same of an HD from today: still the Millipede is highly parallelizable.

    I think we must see these new storage technologies not merely as bigger HD, but as something different, with lot of space, but with a bit less of performance.

    If you see it from a business perspective, remember that IBM sold its HD division to Hitachi about one year ago: it seems clear that they are going to concentrate themselves on new storage technologies.

    Anyway, the future looks really interesting!
  • IBM's Zurich Lab

    Engineers, neutral by nature, do research in a neutral country.

    This just has to produce an unbiased piece of evidence. Chances are, it'll produce more than one.

  • by plinius (714075) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @09:22PM (#7805888)
    When we have media that hold 100+ gigs rather than a niggly 5-10 gigs at the same price, compression will serve no useful purpose.
    • by Imperator (17614) <slashdot2@NoSPAM.omershenker.net> on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @09:55PM (#7806035)
      You're obviously not a programmer. Video is something that places demands on computing that grow to fill the available phenomenon. Double the available storage, and people will want twice the length of video, or twice the bitrate, or whatnot. It's an old phenomenon. As the amount of memory available has increased, so has the amount demanded by applications. To look at it another way, compare O(N^3) bubble sort to O(N log N) merge sort. Just because we have faster computers doesn't mean we can use inefficient algorithms. If I had a dime for every time I've heard some beginning programming student say "but with faster computers, why does time complexity matter?" I'd be, well, able to buy a cheap lunch.
      • To look at it another way, compare O(N^3) bubble sort to O(N log N) merge sort. Just because we have faster computers doesn't mean we can use inefficient algorithms

        I'm actually thinking the original poster is correct. You can't compare compression to algorithms because algs have differences in complexity. The size of a compressed file is (in all systems I know) linear in the size of the uncompressed file. If you had a compression scheme that resulted in a file whose size was logarithmic of the input, I

        • Linear? Perhaps; I don't know much about video compression algorithms. But I do know that uncompressed video is huge, so if it is linear it must be a fairly significant factor. If you have real numbers I'd be interested to know.

          I don't like your GC analogy but I'm not sure I have anythign better. I can't think of any good examples of a strictly linear gain.
      • compare O(N^3) bubble sort

        I'll check again, but I think bubble sort runs in O(N^2) time. The pseudocode is like this:

        list bubble-sort(list L)
        int n = size(L)
        for int i = 1 to n
        for int j = 1 to n-1
        if(L[j] > L[j+1]) swap(L[j], L[j+1])

        The theory being that you go through the list one item at a time, and if that item is greater than the item after it, you swap them and move on to the next item. That happens N-1 times, and since a single item will move at most N-1 times (from, say, the end

      • Actually I am a programmer. I remember when people said 56k modems would overload the CPU. Heck I remember when 2400 baud modems actually did overwhelm CPUs. The fact is, CPUs can already handle the bandwidth of uncompressed video and future CPUs will barely blink at video, just as today audio hardly affects CPU load. So do some research before you pretend you know, sonny.
    • What about when you're downloading it ?
    • When we have media that hold 100+ gigs rather than a niggly 5-10 gigs at the same price, compression will serve no useful purpose.

      I'm not sure about that. Uncompressed video is gigantic. Huge. An hour of uncompressed video takes up about 70 gb, assuming it's regular NTSC rez. Thus you could barely fit a movie on your 100 gig media. It's much better just to use high quality lossy compression, such as MPEG-2 or Xvid or soemthing. If you crank the bitrates high enough, there is no visible artifacting or quality loss.

      I'd much rather have 10 hours of HDTV video rather than an hour of uncompressed. Uncompressed video will only be feasable once media can hold hundreds of gigabytes, rather than the 9 gigs that dual layer DVDs hold today.
      • An hour of uncompressed video takes up about 70 gb

        Let me see. 720x480x2 (16 bit color) = 691200 = 675kB per frame. 24 frames per second for a Hollywood movie = 15.82 MB per second. Times 3600 for an hour is 55.62 GB without sound.

        Therefore, a two-hour movie is 111.2 GB without sound. If we kind on sound and compress that, for the joy of having perfect DVD-level video, I'm not far from my original estimation.

        If you get greedy and desire 24-bit color, that will cost more, 166 GB per two hours.

        • it's actually 720x486 @ 30 fps. film only runs at 24 fps projected. when it's transferred to video it has to become 29.97 fps in the 3:2 pulldown.
        • The point is: you don't need [slashdot.org] uncompressed video for home viewing. You don't. Really good compression is just fine. And I'm picky. MPEG2, DVCAM, and whatever the utter crap codec satellite TV uses don't cut it. But some ultra-nice compression is better than uncompressed because you get a pristine image for less space. Even with some great new storage medium with vast, nearly limitless capacities, it will still run out.

          What you need uncompressed for is editing video/video effects for obvious reasons.
          • One day you'll look back on this and wonder why you ever wasted your time worrying about compression. When ten movies fit on one disk/whatever without compression, giving crystal-clear video, no one will think "yes, let's compress that!".
            • by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday December 25, 2003 @12:14PM (#7808211) Homepage Journal

              When ten movies fit on one disk/whatever without compression, giving crystal-clear video, no one will think "yes, let's compress that!".

              No, when that happens, everyone will think "Hey! Let's increase the framerate, increase the pixels and increase the color depth, then compress it all so we can fit 100 of these better movies on the same device!". Currently, uncompressed NTSC video is about 18MBps, or 144Mbps, which is 18 times more data than a DVD video stream (which includes audio, subtitles and control data as well), and DVDs use the old MPEG2 compression algorithm. If you see occasional compression artifacts in your DVDs, you can be sure that if they compressed to the same data rate using MPEG4, the result would be perfect.

              Looking into the future, assume we double the frame rate, increase resolution to 1080 lines, increase the color depth to 4 bytes per pixel, and store full-raster data, then the video data rate increases to about 300MBps. That would make an uncompressed two-hour movie over 2TB in size. Assuming storage sizes continue to double every 18 months, 2TB disks (or whatever) should be commonly available in 15 years. To get 10 uncompressed movies you'd need 20TB, so add another 3 years or so.

              OTOH, if we can get 50:1 compression, that 2TB movie becomes a 43GB movie, and your 10-movie storage device is only a year or two away (since 200GB drives are pretty cheap now).

              Further, it just doesn't make sense not to compress video. There is so much redundancy that can be discarded. I mean, even stills can be compressed dramatically without degradation, and think about how much similarity there is between each video frame and the next. Good codecs like MPEG4 can achieve 100:1 compression ratios with some degradation, or 50:1 with no perceptible degradation at all, and we can probably expect that to improve.

              Video will be compressed. It's just dumb not to do it.

              • Video will be compressed.

                Your arguments aren't bad, because it's true that people will always want more, but at a certain point capacity will be a non-issue. You don't compress text files, do you, or HTML? Of course not. Capacity is huge by comparison. In the near future with MRAM or polymer it will be huge compared to current video standards.

                In addition, I expect there will be at least factor you aren't considering that determines how things will go.

                Namely, as with audio there will always be purists

                • Namely, as with audio there will always be purists who demand perfection.

                  Right. So what do those audio purists do? FLAC. The same may happen with video, and video is much more compressible. Most uses will still use high-quality lossy compression, though, just as most uses of still imagery are lossily compressed now, even though available storage can certainly handle lossless compression. But for most uses there's just no point.

                  For that matter, there's really no point even for the purists. Have yo

          • And I'm picky. MPEG2, DVCAM, and whatever the utter crap codec satellite TV uses don't cut it. But some ultra-nice compression is better than uncompressed because you get a pristine image for less space. Even with some great new storage medium with vast, nearly limitless capacities, it will still run out.

            For very large media, HuffYUV would work well. It is a lossless codec primarily used for video capture. You can get about a 2:1 reduction over uncompressed. Of course, there are lossy codecs as well that
    • You're forgetting about bandwith. Storage is one thing, but transfer is another.
    • Bandwidth matters. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by katz (36161)
      If you don't use video compression, then for today's data transfer speeds, storing and viewing uncompressed video is grossly inefficient--you'll still have to contend with the relatively slow data transfer rate. Assuming a USB 2 connection gives you a 480 Mb/s data rate with the overhead of start and stop bits[1] this gives us 480 Mb/s / (8 data bits + 2 start/stop bits) = 48 MB/s. Suppose a compressed two-hour movie takes up 800 MB of space (divx ;-) can provide a 10:1 compression[2]). This would take 800
    • Here are some reasons why you're wrong:

      1) Bandwidth. Even if storage increases by the factor of 20 you envision, that doesn't mean bandwidth will.

      2) Would you rather not compress your video, or have better quality and more of it? Uncompressed video is RIDICULOUSLY large. 640 x 480 x 24bpp x 30fps = 221 megabits a second (27 megabytes a second) That means you can store about an hour of that in 100 GB. DVD quality is about 30:1 compression.

      I don't think this would cause people to keep uncompresse
      • Bandwidth: the CPU, memory and video can already handle the bandwidth of uncompressed video. The trick will be getting the new storage system to provide it fast enough. If IBM's new technology can't do it, another one called MRAM will be able to.

        But let us suppose that we were to accept a small amount of lossless compression, like Huffyav. That would ease the immediate burden substantially for the near term. But I don't think compression will ultimately be necessary.

    • To a person surviving on $10,000/year, %100,000/year seems like more than they would ever need. Likewise a million/year to a person making $100,000 - but it never works that way. Expenses always expand to fill available income - just as storage needs always expand to fill available storage.
    • compression will serve no useful purpose.

      Yeah, because we're absolutely sure that newer, huge storage media will be just as cheap.

      We also know that video resolutions will NEVER rise above what they currently are. You know, similar to how VCR gave way to DVDs. That won't ever happen again, right?
    • Lets think about this for a second. HDTV at 1920x1080, 24-bit color @ 60fps = 1920x1080x3x60 = 355 MB/sec. So your 100gb disk buys you about four and a half minutes of video.
  • It's rather astonishing isn't it? here we are looking at technology that can increase our storage to petabytes (probably tons more) of storage, and a year or two ago we were worrying about, what was it?, 10, 20, even 30 gigs not being enough? In this world of 300 gig harddrives, and 120 meg floppy disks, rewriteable cds, and such, you have to wonder, when will our advance stop? and how would such a stop in our advance affect us? would we be able to cope with such? but this kind of advance, it is amazing no
  • ha (Score:2, Funny)

    by ShadowRage (678728)
    In a Forbes magazine article IBM promises polymer memory that's five times cheaper than current flash memory

    but will be five times more expensive in the stores

    good 'ol marketing.
  • by Wohali (57372) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @10:29PM (#7806137) Homepage
    Don't forget -- if we move to this technology world-wide, we'll have mass-storage media that will probably survive an EMP. OK, the actual reader itself will be toast, but the media will survive.

    I keep thinking: I want to record something about myself for future generations that will, in one form or another, survive. Right now my best bet for that is printing onto acid-free paper and having it bound, or doing microfiche. This potentially could solve that problem!
  • I sort of hoped it would be some sort of write once, read many like CDR's are. It lends permanence to data that's comforting--sort of like how you know the books on your shelf will never change.
  • All I want to know is how fast it can access p0rn
  • "The 1,024-tip experiment achieved an areal density of 200 gigabits (billion bits, Gb) per square inch, which translates to a potential capacity of about 0.5 gigabytes (billion bytes, GB) in an area of 3 mm-square. "

    "The research team is now building a prototype, due to be completed early next year, which deploys more than 4,000 tips working simultaneously over a 7 mm-square field. "

    "Initial nanomechanical experiments done at IBM's Almaden Research Center showed that individual tips could support data
  • The sooner tape disappears as a backup medium the better. The tape drive manufacturers haven't been keeping up with drive space increases for the last 10 years. This would put things back in balance.

    If IBM can get this technology to back up 10TB in one small package that sells for under $100 per cartridge they will own the market for offsite storage. This sounds like a lot but it's only one order of magnitude greater than the largest tape drives around now.

    • If you go by what someone else said, it's ~ 25 Gbytes per square inch for this stuff. Which means it will take 10 square inches ( about the size of Magstar ( 3590 ) or LTO-2 tape cartridges ) for 250 GB.

      Given that LTO-2 cartridges have 400 GB capacity, and the next-generation of IBM 3590 starts at 300 GB and is upgradeable capacity-wise without changing media, you get higher capacity in roughly the same space now, on a proven technology that you buy from a vendor right now.

      And given that I would expect 1
      • The amount of tape surface area in a tape cartridge is much more than 10 square inches. I'm hoping that they can either increase the density so that a single sheet will store 10TB or somehow figure out how to stream/step the polymer under the probes so that it can be fed from a spool.

        I realize that spooling it gives some of the drawbacks of current tape formats but the storage would be immense. If you could stuff 300 feet of .5" polymer tape in a cartridge, you could get 45TB storage. It would remove some

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