You have heard of the TeraByte, maybe even a PetaByte – but what about an ExaByte?
IBM have evidently not been partying it up on Christmas or New Years because on Thursday 12th January 2012, they announced what could be conceived as the next leap in computing technology:
Currently Storage technology is relatively ancient. Yes
space has increased constantly since its inception, but the same
technology that was used in my 80 Mb Hard Disk Drive (HDD) that was
on my first PC (a 486 running Windows 3.11), is the same technology
that is running on my 3.5 TB i7 Powered gaming rig. That is,
on my HDD there is a spindle, and on that spindle there is a
platter. That platter is divided into smaller areas (each
with their own technical name which if you are interested are
explained here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disk_sector ).
The Sector itself can be divided into even smaller areas - in
space terms a sector is with 2 KB (or 4 KB when advanced format is
used) and then from KB we can drill down to Bytes, Bits and
eventually to the very Atoms that are on the face of the Hard
It is these atoms and their Magnetic charge that actually hold
your data. A charge indicates a 1 (or true) and a lack of
charge indicates a 0 (or false). This is all relatively simple but
for those that remember High School physics (or for geeks like me
that got a kick out of playing with Magnets) you will know that a
magnetic field will interact and interfere with other Magnetic
fields and Magnetic substances. HDD are no exception to this rule
so in order for a HDD to work there must be enough space between
the areas of charge and no charge for them to not to interfere with
Currently that is about 1 Million Iron Atoms (for those
interested 1 Metre worth of Iron atoms is about 13.5 Billion
Atoms). Obviously at this point if we want more data storage, the
simple way is to increase the number of atoms. More atoms
means more areas of charge which equals more Bits etc. etc.
However the very clever people at IBM figured that if they could
get the different areas of charge to play in a way that they didn't
interfere with each other (or the interference was cancelled by an
equal and opposite charge) then they could have more data for the
same number of atoms.
How much more?
Well they went from 1 million atoms per bit of data too….
12 atoms per bit of data!!!!
Now I don't pretend to know how they did this (the theory is
simple, as above, the maths and the implementation is highly
complex according to the article) but the potential implications
are huge. Just how in 20 years we have gone from 100 Mb on a
HDD to 2 Tb on a HDD, we could go from 2 Tb on a HDD to 2 Pb in a
Of course we have to wait for the technology to come out of the
Lab and into the real world (and then of course come down in price
to where mere mortals can afford it) but the idea of having an
entire library of legally bought Movies and TV shows all in 1080p
high definition goodness available on one drive is certainly
Whatever the next leap forward is in the computing world - I am