Live-Blogging Hitachi's 100-Million-Year Storage Test

A quartz crystal Photograph by Tetra Images/Getty Images

Hitachi has developed a glass-based data storage medium that is highly heat and water resistant, capable of holding data for hundreds of millions of years, and says it may be able to bring it to market by 2015. —InfoWorld News, Sept. 25

Welcome to the Hitachi Memory Liveblog. It’s an exciting day here in Chiyoda City, Tokyo, home to Hitachi’s world headquarters, as the company is about to show off its latest storage technology: laser-etched quartz glass. We’re here in the lab, waiting for the event to start, and will be live-blogging the testing through the next 100,000 millennia.

10:43 a.m. — Still waiting for things to get underway, we’re sitting here as Justin Timberlake’s Until the End of Time is playing over the loudspeakers. You funny, Hitachi!

10:46 a.m. — A representative from Hitachi is now on stage. He’s explaining the process by which data is stored: A piece of quartz glass is etched by a laser with infinitesimally small dots that make up a binary code. The glass is etched at four different depths, which is done by changing the focal point of the laser. As a demonstration, Hitachi will be encoding all seven Police Academy movies in 1080p HD onto a piece of glass.

10:49 a.m — We are told that, while this technology (which doesn’t yet have a product name) was originally developed back in 2009, it wasn’t viable because of the long time it took to etch the glass. New technologies now allow Hitachi to encode the glass 100 dots at a time, drastically shortening the time it takes to store data.

11.01 a.m. — While we’re waiting for the encoding to finish (they tell us they’re now up to Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol), it’s worth pointing out how much data can be stored: Hitachi says it can encode 40MB in a square inch. That’s better than a CD (which tops out at 35MB per square inch), but not nearly as good as a standard hard disk, which can encode a terabyte in the same space.

11:03 a.m. — A second scientist has now taken the stage. She explains how Hitachi can make the bold claim that this new format could keep data safe for 100 million years. The company performed what they call an “accelerated aging process” on a piece of encoded quartz. The process consisted of exposing the glass for two hours to temperatures reaching 1,000 degrees Celsius (that’s 1,832 degrees in American).

11:07 a.m. — Still watching the data get encoded. This is getting boring.

11:11 a.m. — O.K., the encoding is finished. Now the real fun begins—checking the quartz at regular intervals to judge the integrity of the data. Again, Hitachi notes, the company’s research indicates that the quartz should last somewhere in excess of 100 million years. Bloggers are told that bathrooms are available right outside the testing room, if they need to take a break.

11:09 a.m. — O.K., the Hitachi team has left the stage. All that’s left is the quartz and an optical microscope that can be used to read the data.

11:11 a.m. — Coldplay is now coming out of the speakers in the testing room.

12:17 p.m. — Quartz is looking good. So far, no degradation. We’ll be checking regularly, so be sure to come back to this page for updates.

12:18 p.m. — Still playing Coldplay.

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