Holographic Storage from GE

April 27, 2009

The New York Times’s Steve Lohr wrote “G.E.’s Breakthrough Can Put 100 DVDs on a Disc” here. The technology, said Mr. Lohr, is holography:

an optical process that stores not only three-dimensional images like the ones placed on many credit cards for security purposes, but the 1’s and 0’s of digital data as well.

The GE innovation increases the amount of information that can be stored in a medium that extends the capacity of the traditional optical disc.

In the late 1980s, I was given a tour of a Bell Labs research facility and saw a demonstration of an early holographic storage experiment. The device was a cubic object that was impressively small yet capable of holding a large amount of data compared to magnetic media. I asked the researcher, “When will holographic storage be available?” The Bell Lab whiz said, pushing aside a curtain to reveal a 10 foot x 10 foot array of equipment, “When we can miniaturized the hardware.”

Now it seems that GE has made strides in miniaturization, power consumption, hardware, and compatibility. I think the innovation is promising but magnetic storage density continues to increase and the high capacity solid state discs the goslings and I have tested suggest that SSD technology may have an advantage at this time and for the foreseeable future in seek, read, and write speeds; cost; and size.

The early laser disc technology rolled out by RCA promised similar benefits to GE’s holographic innovation. Will super dense holographic storage gain traction? It’s too soon to tell, of course, but the idea is interesting. I wonder how long it will take a movie executive’s child to burn a holo of 100 motion pictures?

Storage has long been the wallflower at the high technology prom. Is this the year that optical density becomes the queen?

Stephen Arnold, April 27, 2009


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