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Magnetic tape is less than a century old and, for a while in the 1950s, it was the main mass storage for computers. Hulking tape drives dominated early computer rooms — especially in Hollywood movies — and were finicky combinations of electronic, mechanical, and pneumatic parts.
By the early 60s, faster and only slightly less finicky disk drives replaced tape as primary storage. Despite many predictions of tape’s demise, it’s still here. Just weeks ago, Sony announced a lab demo of a 185TB tape. This demo uses technology similar to today’s tape, but is more refined.
The underlying technical improvements behind this demo are interesting:
10.3nm? That’s smaller than today’s chip feature sizes! Here’s how the tape roadmap compares to other media:
The IBM/Fujifilm team thinks they can keep doubling tape density every two years for the next decade. That’s faster density growth than disks will achieve, which will nudge the economic advantage back towards tape.
Tape’s Achilles heel is, of course, access time. It works for rarely accessed data — archives — but its glory days of the 1950s, where it was primary storage, will never return.
But this demo — and Sony’s — shows there is still life in the old technology yet. Predictions of tape’s demise are, once again, premature.
Source: Associated Press