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Data Storage Science Technology

Microwires Can Replace The DVD-ROM 416

Posted by timothy
from the not-your-kommandant's-wire-recorder dept.
neutron_p writes "A former Soviet Union military development finds its use in modern technology and still remains fascinating." The development comes in the form of a flexible microwire, 10 micrometers thick and 10cm long, with a metal body and a glass coating, which the linked article says "can store 10 Gigabytes of information. It is possible thanks to their magnetic properties. Anyway, it's not that easy. Researchers say that the greatest difficulty will be with the reading of information."
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Microwires Can Replace The DVD-ROM

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:21PM (#11868906)
    Star Trek geek in me coming out... :)
  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:21PM (#11868907) Homepage Journal
    3 or 5 times thinner than a human hair, these fine threads were invented in the old Soviet Union for military purposes... Data wig? What?
  • by sjbe (173966) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:22PM (#11868915)
    the greatest difficulty will be with the reading of information

    Is the long anticipated write-only memory here at last? Huzzah!

    • Re:Write Only Memory (Score:2, Informative)

      by Golias (176380)
      This kind of sounds like a cold-war Soviet press release.

      "Yes, of course Comrade! Our new media-writing technology is vastly superior to that of the decadant Americans. It holds far more data, there's no dispute. Eh? You want to read the data you say? Well no... We are still working on reading device, but all the data is there, no doubt about it! Just look at it! Just by looking at it you can tell it is holding much more data! It's obvious! Another victory for the revolution! Rejoice!"
    • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug@g e e k a zon.com> on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:45PM (#11869248) Homepage
      Because of course, in Soviet Union, flexible microwire reads you.

      heh-heh, I crack myself up!
    • It very well could be, considering it's from a formus Soviet Russian.

      Queue the jokes..
    • by thegnu (557446)
      DVD-WOM

      ha!
    • This reminds me of this Hackles Strip [hackles.org]:

      "I wrote a super, new compression algorithm -- I call it pigzip! Look how much space I'm saving by pigzipping all our application data!"

      "I can't believe it! This pigzip took 3 gigabytes of data, and compressed it down to only... 3 bytes... wait... I'm guessing there's no decompression algorithm yet?"

      "Its harder than it looks."

    • by adeyadey (678765)
      Or to give it its acronym, the long-awaited "Write Many, Read Never" drive is here..

      You know, kinda like those 5 cent DVD-Rs you get down the market..
    • Re:Write Only Memory (Score:3, Interesting)

      by magicclams (778966)
      This reminds me of a story I heard about an alien who came to earth and decided to take the contents of the earthling internet home with him, so converted all the data into one long integer, and expressed it as a fraction, then pulled out a rod of known length, carefully measured it, and cut it to the appropriate fractional proportion of the whole.

      When asked how they were going to retrieve that information when he got home, he replied, "That's for the engineers to figure out."
  • by vivin (671928) <vivin,paliath&gmail,com> on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:22PM (#11868923) Homepage Journal
    Researchers say that the greatest difficulty will be with the reading of information.

    Excellent! Now my Perl scripts will truly become Write Once Read Never!!
  • No way (Score:3, Funny)

    by CDOS_CDOS run (669823) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:22PM (#11868924)
    [tinfoilhat]I am sticking to my 5.25" floppy, it's the only reliable way to backup data.[/tinfoilhat]
  • so... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by to_kallon (778547) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:22PM (#11868925)
    Microwires Can Replace The DVD-ROM...Researchers say that the greatest difficulty will be with the reading of information.
    i can write lots of data but then it's lost??
    where do i sign up for this great *new* technology??
  • by nobuzz (636720) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:23PM (#11868934)
    Researchers say that the greatest difficulty will be with the reading of information.

    How the hell can they tell it's there if they can't even read it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:23PM (#11868940)
    I'm already going batty trying to not lose these fucking tiny cartriges for the Nintendo DS. Now I'm going to have to keep track of a 10cm molecular-width wire and find myself losing them like pencils as they fall out of my pocket.

    I have seen the future and it is inconvenient
    • No no no, what they are gonna do is get a big handful of these things and melt them down into a flat, round shaped disc, probably around 12cm in diameter, with a hole in the center... so you can hold it on your finger.
  • by PornMaster (749461) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:23PM (#11868943) Homepage
    thinks that CDs use magnetism to report on new tech?

    "The microwires become diminutive substitutes for the CD-ROM, given that information can be stored magnetically on them, as with CDs."
  • by Trigun (685027) <evilNO@SPAMevilempire.ath.cx> on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:23PM (#11868947)
    Backup is easy! The restore is the tricky part.
  • Bit vs buye (Score:5, Interesting)

    by prakslash (681585) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:25PM (#11868963)

    From the article:

    The researchers calculate that a 10 cm long microwire can carry out 10 million divisions or cells and in each one of these a byte can be stored. In order to store the byte, each one of these cells is magnetised in one orientation or the other.

    Don't they mean a "bit"? How can you store a whole byte with just two magnetic orientations?

    • Re:Bit vs buye (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DrEldarion (114072) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:32PM (#11869067)
      They also say that CDs store things magnetically. This source is somewhat questionable.
    • Never mind that if you have 10 million of them you either have 10 megabits (well, in HD manufacturer lingo, anyway) or 10 megabytes, not 10 gigabytes.
    • Re:Bit vs buye (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LurkerXXX (667952) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:40PM (#11869188)
      What about the heading for the paragraph?

      10 Gigabytes in 10 cm long

      followed later by:

      The researchers calculate that a 10 cm long microwire can carry out 10 million divisions or cells and in each one of these a byte can be stored. In order to store the byte, each one of these cells is magnetised in one orientation or the other.

      Pardon my math, but isn't 10 million bytes 10 Megabytes, not Gigabytes? Isn't the articles claim of data density off a thousand fold?

    • Re:Bit vs buye (Score:2, Insightful)

      by nahaj (860086)
      Worse, even if you assume that they mean bytes, 10 million of them don't add up to the claimed 10 Gig capacity. There are a number of problems with this report.
  • by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus,slashdot&gmail,com> on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:25PM (#11868970) Homepage Journal
    Years back, he hypothesized that future aliens contacting us might bring along their entire libraries on a single piece of titanium. Doesn't matter what size: just mark one end with A, one end with B, and make a notch somewhere in the middle.
    Measure A/B, convert the resulting fraction into a hexadecimal string, and there's your data.

    Only problem is that your microscope has to be really good.

    -T

    • Not the microscope so much as the accuracy of your ruler. I'm not sure how possible this would be... how many digits accuracy do you need? If we're talking lots of data, we might need billions of digits. I'm not a physicist by any means, but isn't a Planck Length the smallest unit of space, at 1.6x10^(-35) meters? Is that even enough space for the level of precision required? On top of that, do titanium atoms even have the resolution required for such precision?

      It's an interesting concept, but I won

    • > Only problem is that your microscope has to be really good.

      And that you can't encode one rod onto another rod, since you've used up all the available resolution of the medium. Possibly you could compress all the information from one planet onto a materially-perfect rod a couple meters long at atomic resolution. I'll bet you the algorithm behind that compression scheme would never fit though.
    • What's your source? I don't recall reading that in any of Heinlein's books, or anywhere else. Not doubting you, just wanna know.
    • by Have Blue (616) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:55PM (#11869370) Homepage
      This was also invented by Frank Herbert- Dune featured something called shigawire, which sounds very similar to what's described in TFA.
    • Measure A/B, convert the resulting fraction into a hexadecimal string, and there's your data. Only problem is that your microscope has to be really good.

      They better turn on their Heisenberg Compensators!

  • This appears to be just wire recording [wikipedia.org] writ exceedingly small.

    And if you thought getting glass fiber in your skin itched...

  • From TFA: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ivan256 (17499) * on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:25PM (#11868978)
    The researchers calculate that a 10 cm long microwire can carry out 10 million divisions or cells and in each one of these a byte can be stored. In order to store the byte, each one of these cells is magnetised in one orientation or the other.

    Assuming they didn't mean "bits" when they said "bytes", that only sounds like 10 megabytes to me... Not gigabytes. If they meant bits instead of bytes, which seems likely given the description, that's only 1.25 megabytes in 10 cm...
    • Does sound a lot like you're correct, and the author's off by a factor of 1000, or 8000 (or maybe just 100 or 800 if it's 10 million cells per centimeter.) I suspect from the description "magnetized in one orientation or the other" that it's probably one bit per cell.
  • From TFA: The microwires become diminutive substitutes for the CD-ROM, given that information can be stored magnetically on them, as with CDs.

    Looks to me like a fundamental difference in uses: these wires would be great in pendrives or MP3 players, where flash memory is currently used. No need to use them in place of DVDs or CDs though: we've already got ~50GB optical storage on the way and nobody will be happy if they change the size/shape of the media.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:27PM (#11869000) Homepage
    I just save everything to /dev/null and I never have a problem with storage space.
  • In other words (Score:5, Insightful)

    by b1t r0t (216468) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:27PM (#11869003)
    The development comes in the form of a flexible microwire, 10 micrometers thick and 10cm long

    There's already a name for this. It's called tape.

    (Tape storage started with metal-wire recorders, but esentially they're the same idea, only it's harder to strangle someone with magtape.)

  • 127 year-old dup (Score:3, Informative)

    by G4from128k (686170) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:29PM (#11869030)
    This technology dates back a ways to an 1878 invention [acusd.edu], and devices such as the Webster wire recorder of the 1940s [acusd.edu] and these models from WWII [recording-history.org].

    Its amazing how often new tech is really old tech.
    • This technology dates back a ways to an 1878 invention, and devices such as the Webster wire recorder of the 1940s and these models from WWII.

      Heh heh... some KGB agent probably bought this info from a CIA agent pretending to be a military engineer, sold as the latest development in US communications technology back in the 80s, and they've been wasting time with it ever since.

  • Is this a joke ?? (Score:2, Informative)

    by tajan (172822)
    The microwires become diminutive substitutes for the CD-ROM, given that information can be stored magnetically on them, as with CDs.

    Since when information is stored magnetically on CDs ????

    10 Gigabytes in 10 cm long
    (...)
    The researchers calculate that a 10 cm long microwire can carry out 10 million divisions or cells and in each one of these a byte can be stored. In order to store the byte, each one of these cells is magnetised in one orientation or the other.

    Seems more like a bit on each cell, not b
  • What is Anisotrophy? (Score:3, Informative)

    by vivin (671928) <vivin,paliath&gmail,com> on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:29PM (#11869038) Homepage Journal
    the divisions are carried out internally by means of a process of anisotrophy.

    Anisotrophy? What kind of "trophy" is that? However, there is something [reference.com] known as anisotropy [wikipedia.org].
  • Hyuk!! I got me a storage dee-vice that exists on every Unix system in the world and it's got In-Fi-Night capacity!!! It's called /dev/nul and that sucker seems to have more storage in it than the ocean has water! Of course, like these microwires, I need to figure out how to recover the data from it too.

    [No Offense meant to southerners unless you voted for Bush]
  • They say they are able to store 10GB of data, but can't read it.

    How is this any different from deleting, except you are limited to 10GB at a time?
  • From the article

    The researchers calculate that a 10 cm long microwire can carry out 10 million divisions or cells and in each one of these a byte can be stored. In order to store the byte, each one of these cells is magnetised in one orientation or the other.

    From reading the description it would seem 10cm could hold 10 Giga BITS or about 1.25 Gigabytes at best.
    This is still impressive, expescially if some media could be created that used several wires or packaged one very long wire, perhaps in a spiral

  • by Tibor the Hun (143056) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:33PM (#11869085)
    It is possible thanks to their magnetic properties. Anyway, it's not that easy. Researchers say that the greatest difficulty will be with the reading of information.

    L. Ron Hubbard?
    What, do they also use renegades?

  • This is beginning to sound a lot like..... *tape*
    Dear god help us!
    • by nsayer (86181) <nsayer@kfCOWu.com minus herbivore> on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:54PM (#11869355) Homepage
      Go back in time. Wire predated tape, actually. The original dictation machines were wire recorders. Wire recorders are still used for flight data and cockpit voice recorders in commercial aircraft (though they are being slowly phased out and replaced, I believe, with flash memory).

      Another novel moment in the history of wire recorders: one of the first VTRs (used at the BBC) was a linear "tape" recorder. Bandwidth being proportional to the speed of the media across the head, they moved the "tape" at amazingly high speed. The only "tape" that would stand up to the stress was actually made of steel - making it more like flat wire than what we think of as tape. Couple the weight of the tape with the amount of it you needed and you wound up with huge 10 foot diameter spools of the stuff. The machine was also quite dangerous - if the tape broke, it would hurl fragments of steel that bore a not-so-passing resembelence to razor blades.

      Fortunately, helical scanning was invented, which allows the heads to fly across the tape while the tape itself moves relatively slowly. But now we're drifting off topic.
  • it's not that easy. Researchers say that the greatest difficulty will be with the reading of information.

    How about putting 10,000 of those sticked together and set up in a RAID-like manner? Wouldn't that 1) make it easier to read information 2) make it friggin fast to read information and 3) make it ultra-safe thanks to a crazy amount of redundancy?

    I'm not too sure if this is possible, but I'm curious...
  • By broadcasting it out into space. The greatest difficulty comes when trying to read it.
  • In Soviet Russia, your hard drive backs up YOU.

    LK
  • Researchers say that the greatest difficulty will be with the reading of information.

    I would think the greatest difficulty, if you plan to use them to replace DVD's will be mass production. I doubt you can just stamp these out by the millions quickly and cheaply.

    I like the thought however that you can increase storage linearly just by increasing the length.

  • Uh... basic mistake. (Score:5, Informative)

    by ultramk (470198) <ultramk@pa[ ]ll.net ['cbe' in gap]> on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:40PM (#11869181)
    From the article: The researchers calculate that a 10 cm long microwire can carry out 10 million divisions or cells and in each one of these a byte can be stored. In order to store the byte, each one of these cells is magnetised in one orientation or the other.

    When they say "byte" here, they seem to mean "bit". (for the script kiddies, there are 8 bits to the byte) Also, they're referring to "10 million divisions" not "10 billion divisions".

    So it wouldn't be 10 gigabytes, it would be more like 1.2 megabytes, or roughly 122k/cm. To store 10 gigabytes, it would have to be over 838m long, or over 2750 feet.

    Frankly, I'm not horribly impressed.

    Not to mention, this is just in theory. It hasn't actually been done yet.

    m-
  • by SeanTobin (138474) * <byrdhuntr@hotmai3.1415926l.com minus pi> on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:41PM (#11869199)
    I prefer to store all my information by sending it into a black hole. As with the microwires, reading it tends to be a bit difficult.
  • It is possible thanks to their magnetic properties.

    Excuse me, but one think I like about my CD-ROMs is that they not magnetic, and I don't have to worry about storing they away from magnetic fields.

  • Hair Club (Score:2, Funny)

    by MikeA (23144)
    I'll cancel my appointment with the Hair Club for Men till this is perfected. Just think how much data my flowing locks will store.
  • Imagine, instead of storing data on concentric spirals that can be accessed at a pretty fast rate, we'll be able to have these drives of candy-floss like glassine material whipping around and drawing blood every time a volume needs to be numounted and changed.

    Yeah. That clear forward thinking.

    I can just imagine their using write-only RAM with black hole diodes for the controller.
  • That you have a 10 cm wire that works like a floppy disk, and has the same capacity, except you can't read from it. You compare the magnetic switch technique to CDs, which are optical, and state that this will replace the DVD, even though the highly inaccurate 10 gig capacity is only marginally better than Dual layer DVDs, and we have HD-DVD and Bluray coming out shortly (i.e. before they figure out how to read the data), which will smoke DVDs anyway. WHY IS THIS POSTED ON SLASHDOT!?
  • by Stanistani (808333) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:52PM (#11869331) Homepage Journal
    This innovation should have been covered in Wired .
  • Shenanigans? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug@g e e k a zon.com> on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:56PM (#11869391) Homepage
    I don't know whether to believe this or not. It seems too reminiscent of an old Outer Limits episode called "Demon with a Glass Hand," in which the entire human race has been converted to electrical impulses and stored on a small piece of wire.

    Also the article seems to confuse bits and bytes, and says "researchers calculate that a 10 cm long microwire can carry out 10 million divisions or cells" -- the wire is carrying out divisions? Either this is poorly written or a poorly conceived hoax.
  • by DanielMarkham (765899) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:58PM (#11869411) Homepage
    I, for one, have been waiting for the Write-Once, Read Never drives.

    Let's face it: half the stuff on your drive you're never going to use again anyway. Might as well save it on a data hair so it will not be there when you don't need it.

    And these things will be easy to design to follow moore's law. Every 18 months, just put a new label on the package.
  • Insert Obligatory remark about storage capacity of DNA here....

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Following on the heels of the breakthrough of microwires, researchers have announced success in storing data on individual particles. This zero dimensional technology involves selectively magnetizing microscoping grains. So far, researchers admit that there are some difficulties in reading back information. Said a spokesman for the group, "We considered affixing them to a sheet or disc of some kind, but then we would lose all of the benefits of non-dimensionality." When asked what those benefits were the
  • Imagine, couldn't we have a few hundred nanites all reading the thread and communicating via RFID back to the master queen nanite?
  • Kind of a misleading title, dont you think?

  • typos (Score:3, Informative)

    by frieked (187664) on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:38PM (#11869895) Homepage Journal
    I know there have been a ton of posts saying how the wire only holds 10 million bits and that's only 10 megs, but if you go back and rtfa again they have updated it, it now reads:
    "The researchers calculate that a 10 cm long microwire can carry out 10 million [editor's note: Elhuyar Fundazioa made a mistake here, should be billion] divisions or cells and in each one of these a byte can be stored. In order to store the byte, each one of these cells is magnetised in one orientation or the other."

"From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere." -- Dr. Seuss

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