IBM scientists have found a way to cram unprecedented amounts of information onto magnetic tapes in a breakthrough it heralded yesterday as a data-storing boon to businesses for years to come.
Researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California, packed 6.67 billion bits of data per square inch (645mm2) on magnetic tape developed with the help of Fuji Photo Film Company of Japan, IBM reported.
That was 15 times as much data as can fit on similar space on magnetic tapes considered the current industry standard, according to Mike Ross, spokesman for the US company.
A cartridge half the size of a typical VHS tape cartridge used in home recorders will be able to hold the text from 8 million books that would fill 92km of bookshelves, according to researchers.
Scientists from IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory created a new data coding method to enhance the accuracy of reading the tiny magnetic bits, the company reported.
IBM estimated that the new technology and tapes should be on the market in five years.
"This is really going to improve magnetic tape storage for years to come," Ross said.
"The field of magnetic tape, which a lot of people thought was stodgy and old, isn't withering at all," he added.
IBM first introduced its first magnetic tape, in reel-to-reel form, in May of 1952, Ross said.
Businesses use magnetic tape to store large volumes of data that doesn't need to be accessed instantly, such as archives, backup files, replicas for disaster recovery, and information required for regulatory compliance.
Calculated on a per-gigabyte basis, tape systems are about one-fifth to one-tenth the cost of hard-disk-drive storage systems, depending on their size.
"This is a major milestone in our program and gives magnetic tape the density boost that we gave hard-disk drives in the 1990s," said Spike Narayan, senior manager of advanced technology concepts at IBM Almaden.
IBM was reported to have been the top earner in the US$4.82 billion global tape drive and tape library automation market.