Superman memory crystal

This morning, post company Huddle, our Director of Pre-sales casually mentioned his daughter (in Year 7) is learning about units of measurement for data storage. “Eight bits in a…”, “I remember…”, “When I was…” - everyone spoke at once, then paused. Seeing my window, I told them how my Computer Science teacher had kept a 32 megabyte hard drive the size of a car wheel in our classroom. It was built in the 80’s and weighed over 130 pounds! The hard drives inside our (then modern) machines were a mere 3.5”, weighed no more than a couple of pounds but had a storage capacity of 4 Gigabytes (4000 megabytes, decimal). We were pretty smug back then…

In the 80’s, an individual might wonder how on Earth to fill 32 megabytes of disk space. Today, society's data usage/storage requirements are quite different. Consider: currently 300 hours of video data is uploaded to YouTube every minute!

That 32 megabyte monster would’ve cost thousands of Pounds Sterling. Today, the average smartphone has 32,000 megabytes of internal storage. One can pick up the same capacity in the form of a microSD card, which is no bigger than your thumbnail, for a tenner!

Digital electronics has contributed to world economic growth in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Moore's law (the amount of components per integrated circuit will double every year) describes a driving force of technological and social change, productivity and economic growth.

I recalled an article I’d read in 2016 on scientists at the University of Southampton who had developed and successfully tested recording and retrieval processes of five dimensional (5D) digital data by a process called femtosecond laser writing. Data is recorded via self-assembled nanostructures created in fused quartz.

The storage (sometimes referred to as the Superman Memory Crystal) allows unprecedented properties including 360 Terabytes (three hundred and sixty thousand gigabytes) per disc (the size of a £2 coin!) data capacity, thermal stability up to 1,000°C and virtually unlimited lifetime at room temperature (13.8 billion years at 190°C ) opening a new era of eternal data archiving. As a very stable and safe form of portable memory, the technology could be highly useful for organisations with big archives, such as national archives, museums and libraries, to preserve their information and records.

The prospect sends my mind racing: The Lost Library of Alexandria... The golden discs aboard Voyager and Pioneer… The potential for us to use this technology to secure the last evidence of our civilisation, all we’ve learnt...

As it turns out: earlier this year year, the Arch Mission Foundation (a non-profit organization whose goal is to create multiple redundant repositories of human knowledge around the Solar System, including on Earth.) used the Eternal 5D Optical Storage technology.  Their first and second discs were given to Elon Musk, one disc is in his personal library and the other placed aboard the Tesla Roadster in space.

Try imagine a future where technologies such as Eternal 5D Storage, Artificial Intelligence and Quantum computing (to name a few) are commonplace. People will soon ask questions like: “How did we manage before?”. So long as our only limitation is our imagination - that future is nearer than that monstrous 32 megabyte hard disk is.

My short blog post feels like it’s taken a BIT of a tangent… I have to get back to my Robotic Process Automation work now (RPA is the foundation technology that all companies should implement as a first step on their AI journey).

Don’t forget: Think Automation First!

Grant SteadmanComment