Back when compact discs were first coming out, they were touted as being able to store data “forever.” As it turns out, given no more than a decade or so, they can and do degrade.,,Hitachi has unveiled a system that really may allow data to last forever – or at least, for several hundred million years. It involves forming microscopic dots within a piece of quartz glass, those dots serving as binary code.
The idea is that eons after the dots are applied to the glass, a person (or whatever’s around then) should be able to easily read them using nothing more than an optical microscope – no medium-specific device, such as a CD player, will be necessary. Hopefully, the concept of binary code will still be understood.
The current prototype measures two centimeters (0.8 inches) square by two millimeters thick, and incorporates four layers of dots. It currently has a memory capacity of 40 megabytes per square inch, which is roughly equivalent to that of a music CD. The researchers believe, however, that adding more layers to boost its capacity should be doable.
The glass square has withstood exposure to high-temperature flames along with various harsh chemicals, and survived being heated to 1,000º C for two hours. Not surprisingly, it is also unaffected by radio waves or immersion in water. Of course, glass is breakable, although quartz is known for being particularly hard…
Human beings aren’t especially good at long-term conceptualizing. Wall Street types think it’s a big deal to understand the value of information beyond 3 months. Most politicians think in terms of a year or two. The spookier types who prattle about Methuselah and Noah walk around with all their knowledge stuck into a paper volume assembled by a committee only 7 centuries ago – and first editions are stuck in museums.
Having original and basic knowledge recorded and accessible for millenia makes all the sense in the world. Aiding future historians with insight into the dimness of our earlier visions, records.