In the search for lasting storage systems for data, we have yet to improve on the book. It may not be high-tech, but books are easily legible centuries after they’re created without any kind of specialized reader, unlike eight-track tapes and CDs. Finally, though, the Japanese technology company Hitachi has created a storage device that one-ups the book: a tiny piece of quartz glass a little smaller than one square inch. It’s nigh-indestructible, and will probably be readable forever.
Here’s how it works:
Hitachi’s new technology stores data in binary form by creating dots inside a thin sheet of quartz glass …
The material currently has four layers of dots, which can hold 40 megabytes per square inch, approximately the density on a music CD, researchers said, adding they believe adding more layers should not be a problem.
As long as you have a regular ol’ microscope and a computer that can deal with binary, it should be fairly easy to get data off this little piece of glass. And though specific technology may change and improve over centuries, we’re not likely to lose basic computer language or the ability to magnify stuff. Plus, unlike a book, the quartz glass is waterproof (it’s made from the same stuff as lab beakers) and can endure temperatures of 1,832 degrees F for at least two hours and be totally fine.
You can’t put a huge amount of data on these devices, though, so you’ll want to really consider which embarrassing pictures/favorite songs you store on this thing. Your great-great-great grandchildren will find them, and they will know that you thought it was worth preserving the “Call Me Maybe”/”Ignition (Remix)” mash-up for all eternity (a choice which may very well be the correct one).
This Piece of Glass Can Store Data Forever, Gizmodo.
Get Grist in your inbox