Tuesday, September 28, 2004

1 Terabyte Optical Storage Disks the Size of a DVD

Just yesterday, a friend and I were talking about what the replacement for the DVD would be like. I was surprised to read about this possible new replacement in the Winnipeg Free Press. This website outlines the new technology, Multiplexed Optical Data Storage (MODS), in greater detail.

"September 26, 2004
Physicists at Imperial College London are developing a new optical disk with so much storage capacity that every episode of The Simpsons made could fit on just one. Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Data Storage Conference 2004 in Taiwan today, Dr Peter Török, Lecturer in Photonics in the Department of Physics, will describe a new method for potentially encoding and storing up to one Terabyte (1,000 Gigabytes) of data, or 472 hours of film, on one optical disk the size of a CD or DVD. "

"Under magnification the surface of CDs and DVDs appear as tiny grooves filled with pits and land regions. These pits and land regions represent information encoded into a digital format as a series of ones and noughts. When read back, CDs and DVDs carry one bit per pit, but the Imperial researchers have come up with a way to encode and retrieve up to ten times the amount of information from one pit. "

And, here's how it's done.

"Unlike existing optical disks, MODS disks have asymmetric pits, each containing a ‘step’ sunk within at one of 332 different angles, which encode the information. The Imperial researchers developed a method that can be used to make a precise measurement of the pit orientation that reflects the light back. A different physical phenomenon is used to achieve the additional gain."

From CNET.com:

"Blu-ray discs--currently available only in Japan, with European products expected in 2005--can store up to 25GB per layer and can have two layers. MODS will have 250GB in each of up to four layers. "

From the Winnipeg Free press article, New super disc may replace DVD.

" More than $9 billion US worth of writeable DVD equipment and writeable discs were sold last year worldwide, not including global sales of movies on DVD and read-only DVD players. "

The real question is not how much more data it can store, but can commercial discs be made uncopyable in order to protect copyrights. Or, will some clever kid crack the copy protection just as the recorders are shipping from the factories. My friend predicts the DVD will be history in 8 years as he thinks they cannot store High Definition films at the moment. With most of the big electronics manufacturers (Hitachi Ltd., LG Electronics Inc., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., (Panasonic), Pioneer Corporation, Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Sharp Corporation, Sony Corporation, and Thomson Multimedia (RCA) ) agreeing on the Blu Ray format for DVDs, which will hold two hours of high definition video recording ability or 27 GB (vs. 1000 GB for MODS), one wonders what the shelf life of Blu Ray technology will be.

One also wonders if these same companies will also "sit" on MODS technology until Blu Ray has run its course. If you can fit about 100 MP3s on a 700 MB CD-R, then you can fit about 142 songs on a 1 GB disc. This translates to 142,000 songs on a 1 TB (terabyte, 1000 GB) disc. This could be 9466 hours of continuous music - plenty for a road trip! Today, the largest iPod holds 40 GB of data, or about 10,000 songs. This is capacity than the largest blank DVD. Will the capacity of hard drives soon be outstripped by the MODS generation of DVDs? It appears so at the moment. More importantly, can anyone possibly legally own 9466 hours of music and still have money for retirement? If you had a player that held that many songs, how long would it take to find that one song you wanted to hear at the moment? Will will need voice-activated search engines for future MP3 players (or their future equivalents)? Will the super portable music players of the future contain no hard drives, but rather just RAM in order to cache streamable audio from satellites or other such broadcasting technologies? Would you be able to stream your digital music collection from your PC to a satellite and then pick up your signal anywhere in the world?

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