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Image: University of Twente

Image: University of Twente

Now, I love innovative tech as much as the next gal. The relentless pace of technology progress that makes today’s ground-breaking gadget tomorrow’s flea-market fodder, is what keeps everybody in our industry on their toes. But surely it’s vital that even us old dogs learn a few lessons along the way – if only to avoid some enormous hubristic investment that will come back to bite us just a little bit nearer down the road than we had been led to believe.

Every now and then, a technology revelation springs up that even nice normal people are happy to argue about loudly down the pub. Rarer still, it won’t be about social media or mobile devices, but something closer to the data centre – like secure storage. Those are the days when you find yourself shouting about the pros and cons of silicon nitride storage media and blaming 1980s TV presenters.

Let me explain. Recently a researcher at the University of Twente in the Netherlands announced that he had designed an optical storage disk made of tungsten and coated with silicon nitride, that he claimed would be able to survive extreme conditions and  survive for more than a million years at room temperature.

You probably thought that the ‘data explosion’ threatening your business continuity was just a metaphor didn’t you? Well, Jeroen de Vries believes it is important that we all start thinking about data storage for the looooong term. He says: “One scenario is that a disaster has devastated the earth and society must rebuild the world. Another scenario could be that we create a kind of legacy for future intelligent life that evolves on Earth or comes from other worlds. You must then think about archival storage of between one million and one billion years.”

All of which is very interesting, if a bit scary, but we can’t help thinking that we might have been here before. I clearly remember watching BBC prime time science and technology show ‘Tomorrow’s World’ back in 1981 when we were all told that compact discs would be the answer to all our digital storage needs, that they would last forever, and that (for some reason) spreading jam on a Bee Gees CD and flinging it about proved that this new format was practically indestructible.

So even though times have changed, and Mr. de Vries’ latest innovation undoubtedly represents a very different era of data storage development, it’s perfectly understandable that most people over the age of about 35 will be just a little sceptical about the reality. Especially when even today’s media seems intent on following Kieran Prendiville and the Tomorrow’s World team down the same old rabbit hole. ‘Tungsten Discs Could Function as Million-Year Time Capsules’ proclaims TechNews World. ‘Data Storage Device Built to Outlive Ourselves by 1 Million Years’ reports the Daily Nexus. ‘Giga-year storage medium could outlive human race’ writes R&D Magazine. And ‘Million-year data disk survived being barbecued’ reports the Daily Telegraph…

Don’t get me wrong, we all applaud this latest development, and can see umpteen applications for such long-term storage. But we’ve also been around the block enough times to wager that even the million year disk that can survive being barbecued might itself be superseded pretty soon. Maybe it already has. What do you think? Let us know.