Data That Lasts Forever

Hitachi, a maker of high tech devices including hard drives, has found a way to store data on quartz glass, possibly ready for mass production by 2015.  This data would have about the same density per square inch as a music CD but would last “forever”.  Quartz glass is highly resistant to chemicals and isn’t affected by electromagnetic radiation.  It can withstand temperatures of 1,000 degrees Celsius for about two hours without sustaining damage.  Water is the one thing that kills almost all electronic equipment yet it would have absolutely no effect on this glass.  Hitachi is claiming that it should last a few hundred million years, or more.

The data is written in the glass by forming dots inside a thin sheet of quartz glass.  These binary dots could be read from anything from a optical microscope to laser technology.  While data density of ordinary CD’s isn’t exactly high, this is the first attempt and as you can probably see there is plenty of space in that quartz to increase data density.  Anyways, it’s not about data density – it’s about data longevity.  Anyone who has been working with computers for 25 years like me, has lost more data to magnets, material degradation, pets, and people that thought that a floppy disk was a coaster than can be easily counted.  Every night before I go to sleep, I dread the next hard drive failure and inevitable data loss that definitely will occur sometime between tomorrow and 5-10 years from now. 

Do I really need cutting edge glass quartz optical drives to store this story so that 10 generations from now, my great-great-great…great ones can look back at this story in awe and amazement?  Probably not.  OK, absolutely not.  However, governments are always looking for ways to keep data forever.  I sure would like to keep the Bill Of Rights around for a while.  Religions won’t have to rely on monks slaving away on iPads, copy and pasting bibles anymore.  Museums are always looking for better ways to store information indefinitely for future generations without data loss or distortion.  It is unfortunate but with all glass, there is one weakness.  It can be shattered when struck with a heavy object using enough force.  Even with this one flaw, I would gladly use these quartz glass chips if it means that I’ll never have to buy all my music again because my hard drive crashed and burned. 

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