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Data Storage Hardware

Hitachi Creates Quartz Glass Archival Medium 116

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the hand-me-that-data-crystal dept.
guttentag writes "Hitachi has announced (original press release in Japanese, translated to English) a new storage medium that uses a laser to imprint dots on a piece of quartz glass that correspond to binary code. The dots can be read with an optical microscope and appropriate software. The company says this medium is resistant to extreme heat, radiation, radio waves and should still be readable after a few hundred million years. It's intended as an archival format with data density similar to a music CD (40MB per square inch with 4 layers)."
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Hitachi Creates Quartz Glass Archival Medium

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  • by Sparticus789 (2625955) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @02:38PM (#41453277) Journal

    Finally, a long term solution so that my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandkids can see my baby pictures, listen to my Fallout Boy CDs, and watch my disturbing pr0n collection. I'll order a dozen!

    • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @02:42PM (#41453365) Homepage Journal

      Finally, a long term solution so that my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandkids can see my baby pictures, listen to my Fallout Boy CDs, and watch my disturbing pr0n collection. I'll order a dozen!

      ***DRM ERROR - Could Not Contact Authentication Server***

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Finally, a long term solution so that my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandkids can see my baby pictures, listen to my Fallout Boy CDs, and watch my disturbing pr0n collection. I'll order a dozen!

        ***DRM ERROR - Could Not Contact Authentication Server***

        That makes me a sad panda.

      • It won't get that far because it will require an app for some proprietary long-dead OS first. Apps are the future ya know!

      • ***DRM ERROR - Could Not Contact Authentication Server***

        Assuming the person who finds it realizes its a storage device, and not just a pretty rock...

        • by Thud457 (234763)

          Assuming the person who finds it realizes its a storage device, and not just a pretty rock...

          Society will just label them as a dangerous schizophrenic [wikipedia.org].

        • The Rosetta Disk http://rosettaproject.org/ [rosettaproject.org] is actually designed to give future humans some hint that the object contains microscopic data. Yes people have actually thought about these issues.
          • A CD-like patterning could result in the familiar interference effect. A spectrum. In the event of a collapse of civilisation, that type of effect would likely make the material a highly treasured gem. That will ensure it is preserved for a very long time (Though possibly broken into smaller pieces). The strange pattern will also attract the interest of future scientists, who will probe at it with reinvented microscopes until they figure it out.
      • It's just Fallout Boy, no big loss. However, my Lisa Ann video collection needs to be preserved for all eternity.

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      It's only 40MB each. You might need to leave out the baby pictures and Fallout Boy CDs.

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Learn to read. It's 40 MB per square inch. Same as an Audio CD. You could easily fit music on something the size of an audio CD, I'm sure someone has done it before. Although pictures are getting quite big. A single picture from my digital camera comes pretty close to the size of a lot of MP3s I have. So, it might need quite a few of these discs to back up the thousands of pictures I have. Although you could probably keep a collection of important ones.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @02:38PM (#41453285)

    Dear Hitachi,

    please record the video "Never Gonna Give You Up", so that all future generations are able to get rick-rolled. And label the disc "soft porn" to ensure they'll work at decoding the data.

    • by EkriirkE (1075937) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @03:00PM (#41453637) Homepage
      Careful, what people consider sexual varies culture to culture - you're going to start a future where everyone masturbates to the video.
    • Pretty sure Superman already has prior art on the whole data on a crystal thing...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      must resist... V2UncmUgbm8gc3RyYW5nZXJzIHRvIGxvdmUNCllvdSBrbm93IHRoZSBydWxlcyBhbmQgc28gZG8g SQ0KQSBmdWxsIGNvbW1pdG1lbnQncyB3aGF0IEknbSB0aGlua2luZyBvZg0KWW91IHdvdWxkbid0 IGdldCB0aGlzIGZyb20gYW55IG90aGVyIGd1eQ0KSSBqdXN0IHdhbm5hIHRlbGwgeW91IGhvdyBJ J20gZmVlbGluZw0KR290dGEgbWFrZSB5b3UgdW5kZXJzdGFuZA0KDQpDSE9SVVMNCk5ldmVyIGdv bm5hIGdpdmUgeW91IHVwLA0KTmV2ZXIgZ29ubmEgbGV0IHlvdSBkb3duDQpOZXZlciBnb25uYSBy dW4gYXJvdW5kIGFuZCBkZXNlcnQgeW91DQpOZXZlciBnb25uYSBtYWtlIHlvdSBjcnksDQpOZXZl ciBnb25uYSBzYXkgZ29vZGJ5ZQ0KTmV2ZX
  • It's all very well having something that can be read "with an optical microscope and appropriate software", but if the planned life is in the millions of years, then you have to hope that the science of optics hasn't been lost. And as for software, that will be hard to read far, far sooner (see the Domesday Project as an example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Domesday_Project [wikipedia.org])

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The solution is obvious: put the software, along with the datasheets of the ICs and schematics of the hardware for building the required computer on a quartz glass disc.

      • IBM 5100, futar-proof.
      • by wierd_w (1375923)

        This is easily accomplished.

        Break the library cache into several sections.
        In the first section, make a single literary work, in every world language. (We wouldn't be able to read ancient egyptian without the rossetta stone.) Do this using the "image in crystal" colimated laser etching technique. (See for instance, this image of the eifel tower. [cncestablishment.com]) do this with a .5in thick "slab" of crystal. This is exhibit #1 in the cache. It is intended to help future historians form a base of translation for the language u

        • Another approach would be to augment this with a bottom up approach (for those words they can't quite get, or if all the languages die). It's fairly easy to get anough mathematics accross to communicate a simple audio and/or video codec (anyone competent enough to build microscopes and semiconductors is going to get the basic logical operations and from there some kind of assembly isn't hard).
          Then include a bunch of sesame street and other stuff aimed at kids. Suppliment it with picture dictionaries along
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Spy Handler (822350)

      Thousand years from now, someone looking at computer data storage devices might be completely oblivious to what they were meant for.

      "Ah, those crazy ancient people, obsessed with making ornamental plastic/metal boxes!"

      I would say from an archeological perspective, any digital archive that requires a computer to read is a big no-no. Stone tablets are good, as even in the worst dark ages people will understand their purpose (even if they can't decipher the text). However stone tablets are limited in data dens

      • Thousand years from now, someone looking at computer data storage devices might be completely oblivious to what they were meant for.

        "Ah, those crazy ancient people, obsessed with making ornamental plastic/metal boxes!"

        Kinda makes you wonder about our own civilization's archaeological endeavors, doesn't it? How many odd looking "stones" have been discarded whilst in pursuit of other, more museum-desired items like clay pots and gold jewelry?

      • by BeerCat (685972)

        I propose writing on titanium or aluminum sheets. Most of the writing would be in tiny microscopic font to get some decent data density -- like microfilm of the 80's, but with better long-term durability.

        On the first page we could put normal-size writing as sort of a primer. Then the text would get progressively smaller until it's microfilm-sized, so the reader would get the point that the rest of the tablet is in tiny letters. We could put a diagram explaining the properties of a magnifying glass, and how to make one.

        A bit like the plans for the Rosetta Project: http://rosettaproject.org/disk/concept/ [rosettaproject.org]

        The text begins at eye-readable scale and spirals down to nano-scale.

      • if we put them on metal someone will come along and melt them down and make a cooking pot or frying pan out of them. never under estimate the the ability of anyone to not give a crap about history and knowledge. what you need is a Indiana Jones like temple/datacenter/library that will kill anyone not very determined to get at what the ancients left behind built in a geographically stable area that will anything sort of a direct extinction level meteor strike. fill it with books to teach them basic english a

      • by vadim_t (324782)

        I'd come up with some way of hinting at and explaining the encoding. Here's an idea:

        The surface starts with a visible circle, 1 mm in diameter. The next circle is a bit smaller. The next is smaller still, and so on until the size of the bit is reached. This would draw somebody examining the device to trying to see where this detail ends.

        Next to this there's a visible, etched ASCII table, with the binary representation for each letter, and an example text that's unlikely to be lost to time, with its binary v

        • And, as an archeologist, I'd just throw that into a junkpile with the modern version of 'tl;dr'.

          • by vadim_t (324782)

            Are you sure you're a real archeologist?

            Any interesting artifact these days is obsessed over to an incredible degree. It gets x-rayed, carbon dated, chemically analyzed, stuck in a MRI machine, looked at with a microscope, and the debates about the conclusions that can be drawn from those things last for decades.

      • by DrVomact (726065)

        Maybe sheer quantity will take care of providing a "Rosetta Stone" for the future. If only a single product label survives, then our descendants will have a record of about a dozen major languages instantiated in texts with identical meaning, and a fairly clear understanding of our major obsessions and legal system in the bargain.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @02:39PM (#41453297)

    The problem with long term data archival isn't just the storage medium -- it's being able to recreate the reader mechanism from scratch. Tomorrow world war 3 happens. We're bombed back to the stone age. Thousands of years from now, humanity has returned to the level it is today, but with no knowledge or intact examples of previous technology. How do you explain how to build something, when the language, the words, and the understanding of physics and technology are all different (and possibly wrong or incomplete)?

    We've been trying for a long time to come up with a universal language; Partly in case we ever contact E.T., but also because of the problem of language fragmentation. Human language tends to diverge, not converge. How do you manage to tell someone how to construct a complex device from scratch, without any linguistic foundation and scientific understanding to build from?

    Civilization in a bottle: Not as easy as it sounds.

    • by alexgieg (948359)

      The problem with long term data archival isn't just the storage medium -- it's being able to recreate the reader mechanism from scratch.

      These are two different problems. One is how to archive things assuming the future will be technologically proficient, another is how to archive things assuming it won't. This technology is clearly geared towards the former. In a technologically proficient future, historians will certainly love having full access to the tons of small details and day-to-day stuff that can be made available for them with this, things we wouldn't dream even trying to archive in something geared towards a technologically backwa

    • Duh, they just store it in the crystal as a README.

      • Duh, they just store it in the crystal as a README.

        They saved the file in UTF-16. Also, in the future, the use of English is illegal. Historians believe that a catacalysmic nuclear event several thousand years ago was what caused the Great Warming. Records show a language known as "english" was prevalent in the worst-affected areas. It was retroactively banned by the 320th High Pope of the New New Pastarastafarian church. It's believed the language itself was what caused the problem. Your argument is invalid.

        • by Gilmoure (18428)

          Aw, the Pope's Tits they'll outlaw Engrish. If they do, it'll become the cool underground language spooky books are written in.

    • by Yvan256 (722131) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @03:07PM (#41453773) Homepage Journal

      Civilization in a bottle: Not as easy as it sounds.

      I don't know about bottles, but Sid Meier can put Civilization on a plastic disc.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Did you miss the part where the reader is a microscope?

    • Just make IKEA instructions for it.

    • by HiThere (15173)

      We've been trying for a long time to come up with a universal language; Partly in case we ever contact E.T., but also because of the problem of language fragmentation. Human language tends to diverge, not converge. How do you manage to tell someone how to construct a complex device from scratch, without any linguistic foundation and scientific understanding to build from?

      Cuneiform and clay tablets!

    • by evilviper (135110)

      Despite numerous cataclysms in the past, most languages remained intact. The Rosetta Stone is basically the way forward, a translation key with all languages represented, as at least ONE modern language is sure to be comprehensible in the very distant, post-apocalyptic future.

      And it's an easier problem today than ever... We can print innumerable color pictures, labeled with the appropriate words. That wasn't so easy when craftsman were hand-carving stone tablets.

      • Despite numerous cataclysms in the past, most languages remained intact. The Rosetta Stone is basically the way forward, a translation key with all languages represented, as at least ONE modern language is sure to be comprehensible in the very distant, post-apocalyptic future.

        Sounds like every 16 language foldout instruction sheet for various little electronic gizmos.

        We're saved.

    • Given humanity is again advanced to a reasonable technical level a simple illustration aka this one from my children's fairy tale could work. http://einarpetersen.com/doku.php?id=fiordlings_imageexample [einarpetersen.com] Naturally a more stylistic approach with regards to what is drawn light source / a looking glass effect drawing, the media etc. but I'd think something like that should do it, maybe throw in a few 0 and 1's / images or whatever information is recognisable so that an experimenter would recognise artefacts .
  • by ByteSlicer (735276) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @02:44PM (#41453387)
    Scientist 1 : Look! We found these crystals with dots on it. We believe they're some ancient data storage discs.
    Scientist 2 : Cool! What do they say?
    Scientist 1 : We don't know, we need the software to decode them.
    Scientist 2 : And where is the software?
    Scientist 1 : We're pretty sure it's on one of the discs...
    (Scientist 1 : Also, we need a running DRM server, whatever that may be)
  • by carrier lost (222597) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @02:57PM (#41453581) Homepage

    100 million years, right?

    ' That means I can use this to store my music collection until I finally have time to categorize and playlist it.

  • I hope there is a human-readable "Rosetta Stone" to convert binary information to human-readable information. Better yet, record as much as possible in human-readable form to start with.

    Heck, for pictures, dispense with the binary and store them as psuedo-analog, color-separated red, blue, and green "black and white images" with "pixels" of various sizes using artificial halftones. Next to the "red" picture, put a label indicating that this is "red" or a specific reddish wavelength of light. Ditto green

    • by Russ1642 (1087959)
      Check out the Long Now Foundation. They have already produced Rosetta stone-like discs for languages. Their clock is very cool too.
    • by fikx (704101)
      just make a library of these crystals and then have the decoding info visible if you overlap them under a light....efficient in multiple dimensions...
      • How about making a microscope too? A microscope only needs two materials to construct: A body and a lens. Both of those can be materials that will last a million years without difficulty, along with a storage case.
  • "Archival" storage has much more use for the 100-1000 time frame than for the million-year-plus time frame.

    For time frames of less than 1000 years and assuming no major disruption like a nuclear war, we can assume that people will know what binary code is, what the English language is, have bodies that have eyes and ears that respond to light and sound much the way ours do now, etc. This makes deciding how to store information much, much easier.

    Try storing the Declaration of Independence, the Koran, or Hom

    • The kinds of messages that will last 1,000,000 years will be things like "we built cities," "we traveled in space," "we lived in an era with rapid climate change," "we used fire, tools, and medicine," and the like.

      The only deliberate messages that may last this long will be things like "DANGER! TO PROCEED IS TO DIE!" near our nuclear waste dumps. Or maybe we won't be leaving these messages after all [slashdot.org].

    • by Russ1642 (1087959)
      Well, we've been able to read the human genetic code, see distant galaxies, and explore other planets with robots so I'm pretty certain that future humans will be able to read a Rosetta stone, which is built expressely for the purpose of being read by humans. Unless the future of humanity is a bunch of idiots they'll have little difficulty.
    • I have visions of these devices being used to store archival tax records, or perhaps the hundred-year mandatory retention of internet traffic a near-future government will require of ISPs.
  • Infoworld had an article on this [infoworld.com] in which the reporter wrote: It was unclear whether the optical microscopes needed to read the storage medium will still be available in the year 100002012.

    Still, I hear that Hitachi is offering 10x your money back if the data is unreadable 100 million years from now.

  • When can I use these crystals to send my baby to another world where he will have super powers and build a fortress of solitude when thrown into the ocean?
  • by handy_vandal (606174) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @03:18PM (#41453935) Homepage Journal

    The Rosetta Disk fits in the palm of your hand, yet it contains over 13,000 pages of information on over 1,500 human languages. The pages are microscopically etched and then electroformed in solid nickel, a process that raises the text very slightly - about 100 nanometers - off of the surface of the disk. Each page is only 400 microns across - about the width of 5 human hairs - and can be read through a microscope at 650X as clearly as you would from print in a book. Individual pages are visible at a much lower magnification of 100X. The outer ring of text reads "Languages of the World" in eight major world languages.

    Link [rosettaproject.org]

    • Yes, and you can have one for the low low price of $10,000. Which is nice and all, and if I had stupid money, I'd buy one, but come on.

      Ok, Hitachi will probably sell quartz data writers for that, to start with, and possibly they won't ever get much cheaper, but then again, they might. I can see there being a market for that sort of thing.

      And yes, I understand digital data and the Rosetta Disk printed in standard human scripts are two rather different things, but consider this: if quartz disks are anything

      • by Russ1642 (1087959)
        That's what you get with a $10,000 donation. I guess you also think that a $5,000 charity dinner is a crazy amount to charge for food on a plate.
        • Yes. Yes I do. In fact, I think a $5000 charity dinner is far worse than the Rosetta Disk donation. Like I said, I'd cough up $10k if money was no object to me. But I wouldn't pay a nickel for a charity dinner. If I'm going to donate to charity, I'm going to donate to goddamn charity. Don't make me put on a monkey suit and sit around all evening in an uncomfortable chair listening to a bunch of self-satisfied pricks tell me how wonderful they are (oh, and me too, of course).

          • I worked for a small non-profit organization, years ago, and I can tell you from personal insider experience that charity dinners range from "barely worth the effort" to "financially successful, but an unspoken embarrassment to all involved".

            Some of these charity dinners involved Old Money from big names, and when the rich get excited about throwing a charity dinner, said charity will bend itself silly to meet their expectations.

            I'm thinking of an Old West theme dinner, which involved wagon wheels, rusty m

  • Fortress of Solitude anyone?

  • They mention is has the storage capacity of "about a music CD".

    I would love some kind of archival medium I could trust for 1000 years. Then I could really back up something in a form I knew would last "forever" and keep it offsite without ever having to refresh it.

    But I have way too much data to make using something with the capacity of a normal CD practical for use in this way.

    So I still wait for a technology to come that can really store a lot of data for a long time... I agree with all the people bring

  • by Xin Jing (1587107) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @03:43PM (#41454333)

    Great, now I have to buy my music all over again.

  • And how long does it take to write data? Can we assume the laser required to deform quartz glass requires more power than a typical household even has available? Or is there some specific frequency that glassine quartz is peculiarly susceptible to? There isn't a lot of data I can think of that I'd like to have available from a single piece of media for the rest of my life (and the life of my species), but there is some.

    One hopes there will be more details on the 30th, as one of the articles mentions.

    • by ledow (319597)

      To be honest, if you wanted to make a "home brew" version of this (which wouldn't matter so long as you used a readable medium and data structure), then one of those kits that engraves 3D images into blocks of plastic would work just as well.

      I don't know how expensive they are, but they're not prohibitive, run from common power supplies, engrave on cheap plastic (whose internal structure is unlikely to decompose much in 10,000 years), and customisable (i.e. you can get them to engrave any image, so it's jus

      • Fascinating. It didn't even occur to me that the machine to do what they're talking about has been around for years. It's an off-the-shelf device, made in China. A random sample Google finds runs at 1.5KW with 800 DPI resolution (focus accuracy of 0.02nm) and position accuracy of 10 micrometers. And it can write to crystal, glass, hard plastic, acrylic, and even do surface etching on metals. Possibly for as little as $3000 for the machine, though it's hard to tell with these Chinese sites.

        Now all someb

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