New hard drive technology can store 45 million songs in the space the size of a quarter

That’s a picture of an IBM hard drive from 1957. Even though it had a capacity of just 3.75 MEGAbytes, you couldn’t move it without a forklift.

I bought my first computer in 1992, I thought that my 40 MEGAbyte hard drive would be more than enough. When I bought my first iPod, I couldn’t imagine using more than 4 GB. Eventually, I traded up to a full-sized iPod with a whopping 20 GB. Who would want more storage than that?

Today I have an iPhone X with 128 GB that’s getting awfully full. Meanwhile, my iPad Pro is straining with its 256 GM of memory. The computer on which I’m typing this has 2 TB of storage. And if you add up all my machines and network devices, I have something like 15 TB of hard drive capacity in the house.

Pish. That’s nothing.

Scientists are always working on increasing storage density. The newest development involves a storage device with an insane amount of capacity. From New Atlas:

The researchers, led by PhD student Roshan Achal and physics professor Robert Wolkow, built on a technique previously developed by Walkow that used the tip of a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to remove or replace individual hydrogen atoms resting on a silicon substrate.

The inconceivably small dimensions (a hydrogen atom is only half a nanometer in diameter) allow for an astounding data storage density of 1.1 petabits (138 terabytes) per square inch. By comparison, a Blu-ray disk can “only” store about 12 terabits of data in the same area (one hundredth the data density), while both traditional magnetic hard drives and solid-state drives store somewhere in the region of 1.5 terabits per square inch (a thousandth of the density).

Let’s put that into terms that regular people can understand. Using this new technology, you could put all 45 million songs in iTune’s master library on the surface of something the size of a quarter.

Read/write speeds aren’t great–okay, they’re awful–but work continues.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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