Holographic Storage

Star Trek and Star Wars fans have known about "holo cube" technology for years, but not until recently has holographic recording technology existed in real life.

For decades computers have focused on magnetic media for storing large quantities of data, with forays into optical media with laserdiscs, CDs, and DVDs. However all of these methods use only the surface area of the media for recording.

Hitachi-Maxell and InPhase Technologies (a spinoff of Bell Labs) have partnered to come up with a holographic drive and media that uses the full depth of the media to store data. Surface recording typically stores data one bit at a time, constricting recording speeds. However holographic media allows millions of bits to be written or read at once, in parallel, drastically increasing data transfer speeds.

Holographic technology is well-suited for video production and distribution, as well as storage of large amounts of data. Write-once media will satisfy legal requirements for long-term storage.

First-generation cartridges have a capacity of 300 GB and a transfer rate of 20 MB per second, comparable with today’s tape drives. Second-generation hardware expected in 2008 will offer 800 GB capacities and four times the data transfer speed, with later versions expected to further increase.

Currently the main drawbacks to inexpensive portable storage are speed and capacity. Tape drives can write large amounts of data but must wait for the tape to move past the drive head. Hard drives are much faster but more expensive and not as portable (for off-site storage). By contrast holographic media promises to quickly store large amounts of data in a portable format, that can be stored for a long time.

January 2007

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