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High Capacity Tape Storage

May 5, 2015

With demands for data storage growing exponentially, companies keep pace with a 20th century technology.



r2hox flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

(r2hox/flickr/Creative Commons License CC BY-SA 2.0)

Storing big data on cassette tapes. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[Nat Sound: tape cassette into machine]

From videocassettes to 8-track cartridges, nothing says “20th Century” like magnetic tape.  So you might be surprised to hear it’s now behind a record-breaking advancement in computer storage. IBM electrical engineer Johan Engelen and his colleagues recently squeezed 220 terabytes of data—nearly half the data stored by the entire US Library of Congress—onto a tape cartridge half the size of a VHS cassette. With the explosion of bank data, hospital records and YouTube vídeos, Engelen says we need all the capacity we can get.


The amount of data people create is increasing exponentially. At the moment, we create more data than we can store.


And even though the technology is nearly a century old, he says magnetic tape still hasn’t reached its limits. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.