Thursday, July 13, 2006

And they thought a floppy would be enough


What is thin and round and can hold 50 terabytes of data? A DVD coded bacteriorhodopsin (bR) protein of course. So what is the bR protein anyways? It is a protein found in the membrane of a salt marsh microbe Halbacterium salinarum and is light sensitive. "When light is cast on it bR, it is converted to a series of intermediate molecules each with a unique shape and color before returning to its 'ground state'". In this case the ground state would be 0 and any other state a 1. This creates the binary system needed when storing computer data.

What makes this technique so special is the size of the proteins which are only a few nanometers across. By placing thousands about thousands of these proteins on the Disc you can theoretically get about 50 terabytes of information on one disc. This would be amazing for backup and archival purposes saving tons of space. Although one of the downsides is that since it can store so much data in one little object the chance of data being stolen is increased as well.

Now this of course is not the first high capacity storage medium to have been created. No there have been many different mediums from records to tapes, but the beginning of the modern high capacity storage system would be the CD. This little disc's the shape and size is amazing. First introduced in 1982 it has gone on to be the de facto audio media to date. What is more interesting due to backward compatibility issues the next generation of media including DVD and Blu-Ray have taken the same form factor making the shape and size quite relevant today.

Here is a little breakdown of current media and next generation media


1TB = 1,000GB 1GB=1,000MB

Now some or none of these future formats might take off. There are a couple of issues that could make everyone possibly skip the next gen. One is the fact that there is a format war. People might just take a pass altogether and stick with what works like the DVD. There have been many new formats to lets say the MP3 music file yet none have taken off to the extent the MP3 has. Second is the wow factor. The difference between watching a VHS tape(what happened to Beta?) and a DVD was nothing less than awesome. The sound and picture were truly something to behold. Let's fast forward now and compare HD-DVD to DVD. Yeah HD-DVD is better, but not by the factor DVD was over the VHS. What does HD-DVD or Blu-ray offer that is compelling enough to me to give up my DVD collection, nothing except a slightly higher resolution? Then you have to worry about upgrading your televisions and playback equipment and make sure that they have the proper connections from your new TV from said future playback device. Finally with the way broadband connections have become more and more popular do we even need an additional physical medium? I mean why keep buying the same movies over and over when you could have the digital form that is ubiquitous. I believe physical media will always have its place, but for movie, music, and game distribution I believe it will slowing become a thing of the past. What do you think?

Extra Articles
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/02/07/hvd_alliance_founded/
Lucent Looks at Holographic Storage
http://www.blu-raydisc.com/
http://www.digital-digest.com/highdefdvd/faq.html

Update:


Ars Technica has a good article about the Organic Disk
http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060713-7259.html

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