The Cassette Tape Dead? Not if You Can Cram 185 Terabytes Into One!


SonyTapeDuring “simpler” times, when technology didn’t take care of everything for us, we relied on the vinyl record to play us about 5 songs per side. Later, the cassette tape would play us a little more than that before we had to flip it over. Today, these listening methods may seem long gone for personal use. Heck, even the Compact Disc (CD) isn’t good enough for us; not when we can put our entire library of music onto our iPods or smartphones. For both listening nostalgia and collecting, vinyl has been making a comeback for a while now, but the reasons for that are as simple as that. I bet we could never imagine the cassette to come back, unless something happened to them that would make them more useful. I bet if we found them “cool” we would give them some love. Now that Sony has come in and unveiled a tape that can hold an astonishing 148 GB per square inch, or 185 terabytes (TB) in data terms, get ready for our options to change; maybe even our minds.

One thing we have to remember is the cassette tape never left us, consumers chose to leave it. In fact, tapes are a typical use for storage by businesses because they tend to hold huge amounts of data, and for a long time. Currently, the cassette tape is about a fancy and expressive comeback. Sony’s technique uses a vacuum-formation, called “sputter deposition”. Without getting into scientific detail, the amount of memory it holds is due to the magnetic crystals on the tape that are packed together oh-so tightly. For the more scientific, these 7.7 nanometer crystals occur by “shooting argon ions at a polymer film substrate”. Want a good comparison for your brain? Think of 3 Blu-Rays’ worth of data fitting over on small square inch of the tape. The equivalent of this 185-terabyte tape is 3,700 Blu-Ray discs.

SonyTape1Sony’s tape was first revealed last week, during the International Magnetics Conference in Dresden, Germany. But exactly what is the company intending to do with this massive (pun intended) breakthrough? I can tell you one thing, they wont be sold for personal use at Target or Best Buy any time soon. Sony has bigger plans for the tape prior to commercialization. “Magnetic tape is still a viable option for mass data storage and backup”, says Sony.

If you are wondering why the need for such an alternative when we live in an age of cloud storage and endless hard drives, cost and energy are two clues. A traditional hard drive data center will use 200 times the energy a tape storage array could. Sony is expecting the project to become fully operable by 2025, during which the Square Kilometer Array radio telescope is expected to expel an incredible 1 million gigabytes of data daily. Therefore, options will be gracefully accepted in the future. Additionally, there are thousands of companies in the world that still rely on magnetic tape cartridges to house their data. This "experiment" is so exciting, I surely hope to see it fully embraced. The tape may not be the fastest form of storage or playback, but its reliability, long-lasting strength, and low-cost are all reasons behind data archives and IT departments choosing it specifically for their own storage medium. Who knows, soon enough, we could be using it ourselves.

Topics: Technology News Inventions & Innovations Storage & Cloud

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