As Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones prove, good music lasts a long time; now Japanese hi-tech giant Hitachi says it can last even longer—a few hundred million years at least. The company on Monday unveiled a method of storing digital information on slivers of quartz glass that can endure extreme temperatures and hostile conditions without degrading, almost forever.
Hitachi’s new technology stores data in binary form by creating dots inside a thin sheet of quartz glass, which can be read with an ordinary optical microscope. Provided a computer with the know-how to understand that binary is available—simple enough to programme, no matter how advanced computers become—the data will always be readable, Torii said. The prototype storage device is two centimetres (0.8 inches) square and just two millimetres (0.08 inches) thick and made from quartz glass, a highly stable and resilient material, used to make beakers and other instruments for laboratory use. The chip, which is resistant to many chemicals and unaffected by radio waves, can be exposed directly to high temperature flames and heated to 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 Fahrenheit) for at least two hours without being damaged. It is also waterproof, meaning it could survive natural calamities, such as fires and tsunami. “We believe data will survive unless this hard glass is broken,” said senior researcher Takao Watanabe. The material currently has four layers of dots, which can hold 40 megabytes per square inch, approximately the density on a music CD, researchers said, adding they believe adding more layers should not be a problem."