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The film "Superman" was recorded on a piece of glass for a thousand years. Microsoft shows the data carrier of the future



Project Silica is a new data recording technology that Microsoft has been working on for a long time and is now officially introducing all cards. At the opening panel of the Ignite 2019 conference, American company president Satya Nadella released a small, transparent plate on which the "Superman" cult film from 1978 was recorded.

It is 7.5 x 7.5 cm in dimensions and 2 mm thick and is made of quartz glass, which has been subjected to appropriate treatments. Allow long-term storage of valuable data such as originals of iconic films or originals of unique recordings from the surface of the Moon or Mars.

Project Silica - a piece of glass as the data carrier of the futureProject Silica – a piece of glass as the data carrier of the future photo: Microsoft press materials

Data recorded on the glass

The glass plate – although it is a full-fledged data carrier – stores the information in a completely different way from a HDD, SSD or company tape. To record data on it, you need to expose it to a femtosecond laser that produces light 100 femtosecond pulses (this is one-tenth of a second or 1 / 10,000,000,000,000 seconds).

The laser creates a large number of voxels arranged side by side on the glass, that is, the equivalent of pixels in three-dimensional space. Voxels have a width of 1 micron (1/1000 millimeters), which means they can fit very much in a row. Moreover, they are arranged in layers up to 100, which further increases the capacity of the carrier.

It should be noted, however, that the interaction of the laser permanently changes the structure of the glass, that is, once recorded data cannot be changed, and an attempt to overwrite it will destroy a particular piece of glass. Therefore, the full board, created by Microsoft, is for reading only, as in DVD-ROM discs.

Project Silica - a piece of glass as the data carrier of the futureProject Silica – a piece of glass as the data carrier of the future photo: Microsoft press materials

How to read information?

During recording, the femtosecond laser gives its orientation in space and at the correct size at each voxel – by polarizing the light beam and controlling the laser power.

To read the data, the glass plate light is illuminated by another forest leading to a computer-controlled microscope. This determines the direction and size of each voxel and, taking into account their sequence, reproduces the original appearance of the film, similar to the situation in the binary representation.

Microsoft explained the whole process well at:

Incredible data durability

The American giant explains that the data carrier created as part of the Silica Project is much more durable than the recording forms used today. It does not require special handling, such as film strips, because the data is stored under the glass surface.

Microsoft says quartz glass plates can easily withstand boiling water, oven baking, microwave heating, demagnetizing and wiping with steel wool during tests. After that, the data was still available.

Project SilicaProject Silica photo: Microsoft press materials

Each tile must also be based on the passage of time. The data must remain intact for at least 1000 years.

The solution will help in data archiving

Project Silica is thought to be the perfect solution for companies that need to store large amounts of data for too long and do not have access to it very often. Technology can prove itself, among others in archives, such as film studios, research organizations or pharmaceutical companies, but also servers of companies that offer cloud services.

Tiles created by Microsoft can be stored almost free of charge because they do not need the right temperature, humidity or power supply. In addition, their production is cheap, takes up little space, and the data can remain intact for at least 1000 years.

Hollywood company Warner Bros. has already become interested in technology that has helped Microsoft in the Silica Project. Don't worry, Warner Bros. It has the largest movie archive in the world, and the Redmond Giant's glass plates are likely to save big on storage costs.

See also: Windows 10X is available on traditional laptops. Is Microsoft preparing a small revolution?


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