Hitachi archival storage tech uses quartz glass

The more data we have, the more of it we want to preserve—and the longer we want it to endure. Hitachi may have created the ultimate archival storage medium using quartz glass. Physorg has the goods on the material, which is waterproof, impervious to “many chemicals,” immune to radio interference, and capable of enduring temperatures as high as 1,000°C for a couple hours. Sounds resilient to me.

Data is stored on the glass using layers of binary dots that can be read by a conventional microscope. There are four layers in the current prototype, which squeezes 40MB into every square inch, a bit density close to that of old-school CDs. Hitachi expects higher densities can be achieved by adding layers.

The initial prototype, by the way, measures just 20 x 20 x 2 mm. Pretty sure I’ve seen it used in at least a couple of sci-fi movies over the years.

Given its relatively low storage density, this quartz glass storage tech seems likely to be useful only for archival applications. There’s no word on the cost, though. Odds are it’ll be rather expensive, since specialized equipment will probably be needed to read the glass efficiently, let alone write to it. Counting dots one by one under a microscope would get tedious pretty quickly.

Since you probably won’t be storing precious data on high-tech glass anytime soon, what do you employ for archival media? Is there a stack of old optical discs tucked away somewhere safe, have you transitioned to hard drives, or do you use something else?

Comments closed
    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    Word… I could see some issues and some very good possibilities with this… Seeing as something like diamond or a crystal with a very small lattice work would increase density immensely, this tech is in its very early stages… Especially considering we have copious supplies of diamond…

    How do they erase and reuse the media? Is this like a head that chisels out physical dots on the crystal itself or does it realign it?

    I’ve long since moved past actual ‘media’ for backup. I just buy more HDs when I need more space. Your media is always present and accounted for, it doesn’t simply disappear, and you can reorganize it. 4×1.5TB in r5. I’ve pretty much saturated that capacity and need to upgrade, but since the Taiwan flood that’s made it a fairly expensive proposition. That and HD sizes haven’t really increase all that much in recent years. With 4TBs being the max and expensive.

    I would recommend a home file server for anyone that wants to backup or archive. It can be done ridiculously cheap with a atom system or whatever.

      • pedro
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]Taiwan flood[/quote<] Thailand flood.

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        That.

    • dmjifn
    • 7 years ago

    I use real time backup software that writes to the cloud and to local external HD.

    For more redundancy (and for large, static files like media), I throw in a rotation of portable media.
    Once a year when I purge my paper & electronic files, I make a new copy and rotate through: 1) friend’s house 2) home fire file 3) shredder. My work file cabinet used to be in there but company policy now discourages that.

    That said, I don’t feel like doing it anymore. It was kind of fun to set the system up but I just don’t really care now.

    • Duck
    • 7 years ago

    I want to see some Star Trek isolinear optical chips in production plz.

    • sschaem
    • 7 years ago

    1GB NAS – raid10

    It was an investment. $650, for 5x 2TB drives and the NAS itself. (1 drive ready for replacement)

    No driver needed, truly plug and play. Only thing I did was auto sync ‘my document’ on each of my PC.
    SyncToy

    I had a power outage the other night, I was aware of it because the NAS emailed be a status report.
    So I expect that when a drive fail, I will get an email.. go to the box with my spare drive and be back to full redundancy in a couple of hours.

    • flip-mode
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]Since you probably won't be storing precious data on high-tech glass anytime soon, what do you employ for archival media? Is there a stack of old optical discs tucked away somewhere safe, have you transitioned to hard drives, or do you use something else?[/quote<] I really don't archive, per se, my personal data. But I do back it up to a secondary hard drive. But come to think of it, I have some spare hard drives that could be used to store "long term" archives. How long will data last on a disconnected hard drive? 5 years? 10?

      • Wirko
      • 7 years ago

      Somewhere between zero and twenty years. On average, ten, yes.

      I, for one, have more faith in CDs than HDs. I used to archive my digital photos on CDs (at low writing speeds) until 2009. The quantity of data then forced me to switch to DVDs; however, I still trust CDs more because of their lower bit density.

      HDs can go to hell in as many different ways as there are parts inside. The motor may not be able to spin up after several years, any one of the many chips may fail because it is not sealed well, and so on. This leaves you with data that is still there but it may cost thousands to recover it.

      I’ve just made a read test on two CDs and both passed it. One is a Sony from 2004, the other a Yamaha from 1996. Nice, though I am aware that many people have a more frightening experience.

        • fyo
        • 7 years ago

        [quote<]I, for one, have more faith in CDs than HDs.[/quote<] I, for one, don't. [quote<]I've just made a read test on two CDs and both passed it. One is a Sony from 2004, the other a Yamaha from 1996. Nice, though I am aware that many people have a more frightening experience.[/quote<] While clearing some closets recently, I tested 20+ randomly selected CDs of various (quality) brands with data written to them somewhere between 10 and 15 years ago. Only a single one was readable (and it had plenty of errors). They were burned at low speed with two different burners (at least a few of the CDs were with the newer of two burners I had) and I tried reading them in two different drives. No luck. I also tested a few CDs that were given to me by a friend (and thus written to using a different burner), but no luck there either. The DVDs I had were quite a bit newer -- between 5 and 10 years -- and had a failure rate of "just" 50%. The CDs were stored at right around 20degC and low humidity, although not in a controlled environment. They were not exposed to sunlight or heat (or cold, for that matter). For normal users, this would be about ideal storage conditions. My only conclusion is that in order to have any reasonable chance of a 10-year life on burned CDs (as opposed to stamped CDs, which all worked fine), you need some fairly atypical circumstances. I certainly took all the steps I felt reasonable and the failure rate was nearly 100%.

    • ronch
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]Given its relatively low storage density, this quartz glass storage tech seems likely to be useful only for archival applications[/quote<] Er, wait a minute. If this new-fangled thing can't store lots of data (in its current form), how is it supposed to be used for archival purposes, which usually involve tons of data?

    • bthylafh
    • 7 years ago

    I’m using a 2GB WD Caviar Green in a retired desktop for backups, runs Ubuntu Server 12.04.

    Nothing properly “archival”, though, nothing that can easily be stuck in a safe deposit box.

    • anotherengineer
    • 7 years ago

    “what do you employ for archival media?”

    Nothing, my synology 712+ diskstation is still sitting in the box, I need some holidays to get it operational.

    My data is on 2 HDD sitting on a shelf collecting dust.

    On the fence about testing out a few of those M-discs though.

    [url<]http://millenniata.com/m-disc/[/url<] [url<]http://ncix.com/search/?categoryid=0&q=m-disc[/url<] edit - if that fails I will scribe it into stone, that seems to last a long time 🙂

      • mattthemuppet
      • 7 years ago

      ” if that fails I will scribe it into stone, that seems to last a long time :)”

      not if you leave it outside, erosion’s a bugger.

        • anotherengineer
        • 7 years ago

        Well the ruins of rome are still around as are the pyramids, they lasted longer than a dvd or hdd would 😉

        Then again, a long time is relative. I think I want a coffin made of 1/4″ thick 316L stainless, 3000 yrs down the road I might be able to shaft a future land developer or something 🙂 that or get coffin jacked LOL

          • BIF
          • 7 years ago

          What, no gold-plated spinner rims for that coffin?

      • Wirko
      • 7 years ago

      How do you intend to “test” those M-discs? Write them, hang them on a tree for a year and then verify the data? Without the tree it’s just a lab test.

    • moose17145
    • 7 years ago

    Now that it is known for a fact we can store information on crystals… this is what I expect the inside of my Desktop to look like in the next ten years. 🙂

    [url<]http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20090221180902/stargate/images/1/11/Tau%27riControlCrystals.jpg[/url<]

      • Arclight
      • 7 years ago

      Stargate! F**K YEAH

    • ludi
    • 7 years ago

    If this is what they’re already doing in a prototype, figure on having a commercially viable solution with several times the density and practical cost within 3-5 years.

    Most of my own data beyond a handful of personal files and my digital photo collection is not actually irreplaceable, but a much as possible I follow a 2+2 rule: store anything critical on at least two types of media, in at least two physically separate locations. Right now this variously includes optical, flash, and HDD storage, and I live about 30 miles from my folks, so I keep a handful of archival items at their house.

      • BIF
      • 7 years ago

      I like the 2+3 rule.

      At least 2 types of media in 3 locations.

      But I don’t do it…D’oh!

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