May 5, 2014
New Sony Cassette Tape Could Store 185 Terabytes Of Data
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Ask anyone born in the last 20 years what a cassette tape is, and odds are you’ll most likely receive a blank look in return. However, that could change following the unveiling of Sony’s latest invention – a new type of magnetic tape capable of holding 148 gigabytes (GB) worth of data per square inch.
According to Gizmodo’s Robert Sorokanich, the enhanced magnetic tape means that a single cassette would be able to store 185 terabytes (TB) worth of data, or roughly the equivalent of 3,700 Blu-Ray discs. As if that wasn’t mind-blowing enough, consider the fact that three Blu-Rays’ worth of data could fit on one square inch of the new Sony tape.
Company officials described the technique used to create the innovative new, yet somehow still old-school, storage medium Sunday during the International Magnetics Conference in Dresden. Using a vacuum-forming technique known as sputter deposition, they shoot argon ions at a polymer film substrate in order to create a layer of magnetic crystals, Sorokanich explained.
Extreme Tech writer James Plafke said that the crystals are combined with “a soft magnetic under-layer.” Their average size is just 7.7 nanometers and they can be closely packed together, he added. Furthermore, a cassette tape created using this material “would hold five more terabytes than a $9,305 hard drive storage array.”
“Naturally, that kind of memory isn't going to go in the cassette deck on your ancient boom box any time soon. Sony developed the technology for long-term, industrial-sized data backup, a field where tape's slow write times and the time it takes to scroll through yards and yards of tape to find a single file aren't crippling problems,” Sorokanich said, noting that there is currently no timetable for the material’s release.
While the mass market appeal of cassette tapes is not what it once was, research into advanced magnetic tape storage media did not die out with the growth of the CD and the MP3 download markets. In 2010, the record for the amount of data that could be stored on magnetic tape was 29.5 GB per square inch, said Plafke.
Two years later, IBM and FujiFilm joined forces to develop prototype cassettes that could contain a total of 35 TB, according to Forbes contributor Jason Evangelho. However, while Sony’s new magnetic tape would appear to have amazing storage potential, Plafke emphasized that people should look at the issue without wearing their nostalgia-tinted glasses.
“While 185TB of storage sitting on a single cartridge is extremely appealing for people with large digital collections… it’s best to remember that the storage medium of tape has never been easy access,” he said. “Read and write times feel like (and often are) an oblivion, and tape is used mainly for safe-keeping backup, rather than because you have too much music on your SSD and want to free up space for a new game.”