perpendicularThe next technological breakthrough to hit the market in hard disk technology is perpendicular recording. As I understand it, this means that the magnetic field is flipped 90 degrees up from the disk surface, increasing the storage capacity per areal unit as much as ten times. This Flash video from Hitachi (which includes ceiling pointing dance steps  from Saturday Night Fever) should give a technically correct, though rather hokey explanation.

The upshot is somewhat thicker but ten times as powerful hard disks. The initial market seems to be iPods and similar devices (where the density premium is higher, I assume, but maybe also because smaller disks vibrate less just because they are smaller), but 3.5 inch disks are already announced. Today’s top-of-the-line disks have about 500GB capacity, so get ready for 5TB on your laptop within a year to three….

That is rather amazing. I like disk technology – not just because it is the perennial example of  continuously disruptive innovation, but also because every time you think it has reached its technological limit and we will finally switch to solid state memory, a new dimension opens up (this time by using an old technology previously thought too complex to be worth it.)

5TB on a laptop…. I used to say that you can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much hard disk space, but now I begin to wonder. This means simple scanning of all your digital content, including music and videos, and carrying all your information with you at all times. Which new applications will we get that will take advantage of, eventually outstrip this capacity and thus drive the technology forward?

Furthermore, were will disks go once the compression-on-a-single layer dimension is exhausted? Following what happened in computer design, I suspect we will see some architectural innovation (a la Seymour Cray creating supercomputers by creatively combining – and packing – known technology) or just techniques for increasing the number of disks attached to each device. Or perhaps increases in communications technology, especially wireless, will allow us to, once more, go back to centralized data storage.

Ahhh, the march of technology. Don’t we love it. 

(Via Engadget.)