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Data Storage Technology

Data Storage That Could Outlast the Human Race 231

Posted by samzenpus
from the built-to-last dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Just in case you haven't been keeping up with the latest in five-dimensional digital data storage using femtocell-laser inscription, here's an update: it works. A team of researchers at the University of Southampton have demonstrated a way to record and retrieve as much as 360 terabytes of digital data onto a single disk of quartz glass in a way that can withstand temperatures of up to 1000 C and should keep the data stable and readable for up to a million years. 'It is thrilling to think that we have created the first document which will likely survive the human race,' said Peter Kazansky, professor of physical optoelectronics at the Univ. of Southampton's Optical Research Centre. 'This technology can secure the last evidence of civilization: all we've learnt will not be forgotten.' Leaving aside the question of how many Twitter posts and Facebook updates really need to be preserved longer than the human species, the technology appears to have tremendous potential for low-cost, long-term, high-volume archiving of enormous databanks. The quartz-glass technique relies on lasers pulsing one quadrillion times per second though a modulator that splits each pulse into 256 beams, generating a holographic image that is recorded on self-assembled nanostructures within a disk of fused-quartz glass. The data are stored in a five-dimensional matrix—the size and directional orientation of each nanostructured dot becomes dimensions four and five, in addition to the usual X, Y and Z axes that describe physical location. Files are written in three layers of dots, separated by five micrometers within a disk of quartz glass nicknamed 'Superman memory crystal' by researchers. (Hitachi has also been researching something similar.)"
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Data Storage That Could Outlast the Human Race

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  • by gweihir (88907) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @03:11AM (#44247773)

    Or rather completely irrelevant. Nothing to see here except a few people that want attention. The issue with long-term storage is _not_ how to preserve the bits. It is how to preserve Reading equipment and, even more difficult, software that can read the data stored and transform it into something the user can read.

  • Rosetta Stone (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blackicye (760472) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @03:15AM (#44247791)

    They could also deeply engrave rocks and stone tablets and for really important messages mountains and other large surfaces.

    Worked pretty well for the ancients.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 11, 2013 @03:16AM (#44247803)

    Exactly. The concept of a post-apocalypse tribal society restoring mankinds' knowledge with femtocell lasers is hilarious.

  • Ah, you must be a data storage specialist, Sir. Probably you even have your own research lab doing R & D in exactly the direction these talented people work in, and you know all the relevant literature, went to the important conferences. Otherwise you would not, I trust, have emitted such a peremptory yet wise judgment ?
  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @04:20AM (#44248079)

    Software is no issue, you can just store a description of the algorithms in ASCII. Even if the ASCII standard is lost, a little frequency counting will be enough to rediscover it.

    A greater issue is keeping it readable to humans: In ten thousand years, English will probably be about as commonly-spoken as linear-A.

  • by Aboroth (1841308) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @04:58AM (#44248215)
    Researchers are used to overselling their discoveries all the time, to continue or get more funding. While they might be doing boring materials science, they have to come up with lots of pie-in-the-sky ideas about what their research could potentially be used for, if somebody can ever get enough engineers together to figure out the pesky implementation details. Geeks around here have heard promise after promise about revolutionary storage technology that goes nowhere precisely because of this drastic overselling to grab research money. It would be nice if the research system didn't force people to do this, but you can't be surprised by the skeptics of this given the nature of the beast.

    So no, I don't expect that the people who did this research care about the feasibility of the reading technology lasting as long as the data. Well, they probably care a little, but they did something and are going to brag about it as much as possible without focusing on the downsides or unfinished parts too much. It isn't their problem, they just do the research and sell it with hype, to get more money to do more research. The implementation and feasibility studies aren't their problem, that is, unless somebody gives them more money to do those things.
  • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortexNO@S ... t-retrograde.com> on Thursday July 11, 2013 @06:51AM (#44248617)

    A millions years from now, the first new sentient evolutionary forms that discover the fallen towers of we the ancient gods will proudly hold these precious disks up to the light. Holograms dense with data will dance within the crystalline structures before their eyes. In their grasp will be the records of our progress -- all our science and forewarnings of its power, high definition videos of escapades among the stars, and the description of a state machine to decode it. They will have in their possession an invaluable source for goodness guiding a maddening leap from their understanding to ours that they may forge a society greater still than our own...
    And they'll make down right amazing discoveries day after day in necklace design from each and every one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 11, 2013 @07:58AM (#44248877)

    While they might be doing boring materials science, they have to come up with lots of pie-in-the-sky ideas about what their research could potentially be used for, if somebody can ever get enough engineers together to figure out the pesky implementation details. Geeks around here have heard promise after promise about revolutionary storage technology that goes nowhere precisely because of this drastic overselling to grab research money.

    We have gone from having a 3.5" surface that holds on average 1.4 million bytes or at most 2.8 million bytes - to a time where that same 3.5" of surface now holds upwards of 3 trillion bytes.

    That is hardly "goes no where"

    I for one am pretty thankful for our cheap and no less reliable 3 TB drives compared to the floppy disks of days past.

    I remember starting out with 5.25" floppies that were still actually floppy on the outside, holding 80 KB per side (140 KB if you flip the thing over manually), as a technology replacing audio tape cassette with seek times that are in many ways laughable today.
    There are others here who have lived with even older technologies and grew up very familiar with the storage problem on hardware I suspect you might not believe was ever as limited as it was.

    Just because some scientists never realized their ideas does not mean the entire storage field has gone no where over the years or that no scientist ever has.

  • by shadowrat (1069614) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:35AM (#44249623)
    There is more to back up than technical knowledge. We've bypassed the technology of the mayans and other ancient supercultures (assuming you aren't buying into the ideas that they had alien tech and stuff), but we still have an interest in learning about them. I know slashdot is a crowd obsessed with tech over culture, but cultural knowledge is valuable. TFS jokes about it, but honestly, backing up facebook would probably be incredibly interesting to a future civilization.

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