back to article University boffins squeeze 500GB onto a DVD

The University of Berlin, with partners Budapest University of Technology and Economics and Universita Politecnica delle Marche in Italy, has managed to work out how to store 500GB of data on a regular HD DVD or Blu-ray disc. The Microholas project developed a microholographic recording technique, using nanostructures inside …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The human adventure is just beginning

    "A microholographic recording technique, using nanostructures"? "Wavelength multiplexing techniques"? I was under the impression that the technological jibber-jabber in Star Trek was fictional. How wrong I was.

  2. Ian Michael Gumby

    The MPAA should think about this...

    Ok, so one conclusion is to be able to store your entire library of music or a ton of films on a single dvd.

    But the MPAA should consider this a way of making sure that the customer gets his/her value for the $25.00 they now want for a DVD or more for a Blu-Ray/HD DVD. (Even the bad movies are asking this extraordinary amount per DVD).

    On a single DVD, they could include shorts for up coming releases in high def, alternative endings, and directors commentary. Along with multiple features like closed captioning and voice over in different languages.

    Movie stills, "posters", screen saver backdrops, maybe even a ringtone from the movie. Talk about a marketing potential....

    Imagine getting a James Bond Ringtone from Casino Royale.

    Ok, nothing new here, just a simple use of the space.

    BTW, I'd rather pay $3.99 for Video on Demand to watch the movie than $25.00+ for the DVD unless its a true classic. Piracy isn't killing the DVD sales, but alternatives and a lower price point.

  3. Dave


    So whatever happened to FMD's? These were allegedly demonstrated in 2000 with capacities up to 1TB on a clear CD size disk.

    Presumably Sony sent in the black helicopters, determined that some day it would win a format war, any format war, rather than having every single format it ever invented (superior though they may be) remembered as an also ran :o)

  4. Gabor Laszlo

    Define "secure"

    An ordinary CD can take some rough handling before becoming unreadable, a DVD somewhat less. I'm making a guess here, but wouldn't such a disk be even more sensitive? unless it is made somehow more robust I would not trust my sensitive data to this tech. DAT tapes might be slow and bulky, but they are far more robust IMO.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Storage Crystals?

    Surely, using "A microholographic recording technique, using nanostructures" and "Wavelength multiplexing techniques", why do they need a moving disk, that's so last century?

  6. Phill

    Make it like a minidisc

    Can they make the disc a little smaller and put a protective cover on it just like a mini disc?

    Thanks in advance!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sue them, Sue Them

    I'm sure they have broken some dumb ass, ill thought out law / patent to achive this.

    Sue them I say, stiffle all innovation NOW!

  8. Brett Brennan

    Data cubes anyone?

    The cool thing about this approach is that it opens the possibility of using scanned beams on a non-moving 3d object to store and retrieve even larger amounts of data. The "data cubes" that have been so prominent in sci-fi for generations are now technically feasable with (nearly) COTS hardware.

    This is the really cool potential outcome!

    Also, since this is a holographic structure, if a 3d object is used there is the potential to be able to encode different data through at least half of the cube faces.

    And then, of course, there's the 3d LightScribe capability: you potentially could "overdub" a holographic image into the disc/cube that would appear as the label. How cool is that?

  9. Gleb

    The future

    It just seems that every once in a while a format or technology pops up that offers you virtually unlimited this or that. But be it processor speed, storage space or something else - the progress is always continues gradually. Quantum leaps in technolgy, though almost seeming natural - just don't occur. Why? Either it's the people at the top trying to make more money, or all of these technologies are overhyped nonsense. By "developed a technology" the writer might mean "on paper", and by "1TB" - "Until it comes out of a clean room".

    Further, when talking about media - there is also the need to consider. Who would want 500 GB discs? Pirates, yes. Backup techies? If the discs retains data longer than 5 years - shure. But these are not mainstream uses! DVDs out there today already offer potentially unlimited storage for the average Joe. Apart from really high quality imagery (which most people don't have) and high quality long video seqences (which are most likely illegal to copy anyway) - such technolgy would help no one. Just consider the format wars - BluRay offers more storage than HDDvD, but the latter one still has a chance and does reasonably well.

  10. Daniel Ballado-Torres

    DAT Tapes

    If they are going for something like, say, a super-media disc (I'd bet a full anime series or a complete TV series season fits in that) I'd say, go!

    But for backup... I still trust DAT tapes over any spinning media. Anything that spins will scratch, eventually. Damn, my dad's college work is stored in a tape reel that's older than *me*, yet I was able to get someone to read it!

    However, about 1/3 of my CD's have gone to hell, taking away lots of important information. I have since stopped doing CD or DVD "backups", and using external HDs. I also did some DAT backups at my previous job (a friend sold me some DDS-2 cartridges) but I no longer have a DAT unit. Too bad...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Woman's area

    "Who would want 500 GB discs?"

    You need to ask "why would the porn industry want 500GB discs", because it is the porn industry that is likely to drive innovation in this field. I am sure that there are some sick, sick people who want to see every hair on Aria Giovanni's front bottom, and will pay money for an ultra-high resolution disc and an enormous television to match it. Men long for 500GB discs, they have a sexual urge for them.

    Perhaps Ultra-Density Discs will mean the end of file compression, and films will henceforth consist of a stream of uncompressed 32-bit .tiff pictures passing by at sixty frames a second.

    Can I trademark the term "ultra-density disc"?

  12. David Gosnell

    Interesting stuff...

    ... but looks like a classic "12 to 18 months"* job to me.

    * A few years back the BBC went through a phase of reporting on amazing developments we knew damn well would never see the light of day (and never did), and they were always stated as being "12 to 18 months away" from a practical product.

  13. Josh


    "The idea is not to stash away a thousand movies on a single disc, but to use the technology for secure long-term storage, the Prof said."

    Can they be not one in the same?

    Really though, I think it will be useful to many more than we imagine. "Backup techies" permeate many layers of society, through many industries.

    I definitely see the US govt. needing this kind of backup capability. Just in defense alone, with all the integrated systems and projects being developed...imagine the kind of storage it takes to archive all the helmet-cam footage every soldier will one day have. On the other end of the spectrum, hospitals could make great use of these storing the various imaging records they produce through a year. Need a CAT scan from before Mrs. Johnson's embolism formed? Go get the disc labeled "2007".

    I have only once ever scratched media to the point that a computer can't read it (and I have had some pretty badly scratched media in my time). I have even been able to read discs in a computer after having scraped dried wax from the surface. I would find it hard to believe that I somehow got all the wax out of the tiny scratches in the media...

    Specifically, "long-term storage" indirectly indicates that the media will not be taken in and out of it's case and loaded into a reader many times, if ever, further minimizing the chance that the DVD will become unreadable due to scratches, should it ever need to be read.

    Now if your REALLY serious about durable storage, even better than using tape, you could simply hand chisel the data into the inside surface of a hermetically sealed shipping container, then fly it to the freaking moon, and strap it down with 700 chains, then finally lock it into 50 feet of concrete-steel cluster-f*** mess. OR, If the data is so important to need saving for 5-50 years, buy a damned jewel case.

  14. Mike

    Uses for this tech.

    Not backup, for sure. If you've got 500GB to store, a big part of it is probably things like .doc, .xls, and .pdf files. Try reading these from a few software revs back, and you'll realize that if you store that wodge, you'll also need to "archive" an old-enough PC to boot an old-enough OS to run an old-enough version of the software that wrote them. Alternatively, you could have media files, but backing them up will be pointless because they'll be DRM-locked to the first PC you had them on.

    The real use for this is that Window 2012, code-named "AdAstra" will come on only three of these disks, as long as you stick to the "Home Basic" edition. The folks whining about physical robustness will realize that this is also an advantage, as the first time you need to "insert your install disk", it'll be scratched and you'll need to re-buy and re-authorize.


  15. Andy Bright


    "Not backup, for sure. If you've got 500GB to store, a big part of it is probably things like .doc, .xls, and .pdf files. Try reading these from a few software revs back, and you'll realize that if you store that wodge, you'll also need to "archive" an old-enough PC..."

    Actually what you would use is a document management system.

    The way the compatibility works is for every type of document you want to read, the required software must be available on the server.

    Need to read v5 pdfs, a v5 pdf viewer must installed on the doc management server.

    Other than that it's a glorified database application that allows regular people (non-techies) powerful search options.

    As for storing backups on DVD, even 500GB disks, no real point. Network appliances with up to large numbers of up to 1TB hard disks are more reliable, and a hell of a lot faster.

    I use a 64 x 500Gbyte appliance as a backup/disk mirroring system.

    The backup software creates a copy of each drive and stores them in various time slots. So I can retrieve a document from 5 minutes ago to 6 months ago, depending on when the oops happened.

    Retrieval is as easy as sticking a '~' in the path name, eg. L:\Engineering\~whatever the path is, and copying it back to the correct location.

    The appliance has fault tolerance built in, using wiz bang wizardry to automatically replace data into free space should a disk go bad.

    Expensive but reliable stuff, and much faster than using optical media or tapes.

  16. heystoopid


    Say , , didn't I read somewhere , that generation one bluray disc's are suffering from the dreaded black cancer , that killed many a CD in the eighties?

  17. Yuri

    nows only matter the cost

    of the player

  18. Richard Hebert

    disc protection.

    in pro video gear sony already is providing

    with discs that are within a casing similar to a regular

    cd case.pop the whole thing in the machine and voila.

    take the disc out and toss it across the console to the

    operator and the disc is perfect order..

    im not worried about the scratches , there's ways to

    prevent them .. im more worried about the old cd rot

    or the likes of it.

    Im also looking towards those StarTrek solid storage

    units >:)

  19. Azrafael

    The look of love, well pain.

    Imagine the number of ways how an optical disc would be rendered inoperable.

    Just one disc of 500gb scratched would send shivers.

    Lighter note:

    I'm curious how long it took them to store 500gbs practically.

  20. Adrian Crooks

    Sure it can be used as backup media

    If the disks show up in regular stores for decent prices then I don't see why they could not be used as backup. You could backup your entire machine every week/month as a matter of convenience. A 500GB disk would save you the time of having to configure the selected directories, and you could save a snapshot of the executables required to open the files... In other words you image the whole machine and if something goes wrong you don't have to reinstall all the apps.

    If the disk is not too reliable then as long as it is cheap enough you can just make a lot of backups. One backup every month should cover your butt, so as long as the disks don't die every week I don't see a problem in using it as a running backup, not a historical one (10 year archiving?).

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Jesus, everyone gets all space-age! I jut brought a 400GB USB harddrive, After 4 days its half full.

    This kinda space is nothing!


  22. Valan Chan

    New medium

    Rather than a 5" spinning disc that can get easily scratched or snapped I wish they would go for a smaller fatter medium.

    There was talk about a great way of moving the laser beam using vibrating crystals. What happened to that?

  23. Andraž Levstik

    Backup, storage, etc...

    For backup I simply use a hard drive AND upload to a few $random remote locations. I upload using gpg encryption of course. This way even if any amount of locations break I can still get it back. But as Linus once said... the BEST way to backup is to name your file like something porn-like and stuff it into a p2p network. As far storage I think my entire network has around 200GB storage and even that I don't use fully...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Secure storage only not movies? Unlikely.

    "The idea is not to stash away a thousand movies on a single disc, but to use the technology for secure long-term storage"

    Yeah but you just know it's going to get used for movies :-).

    Playing the cynic for a minute, likely to be 10gb for the movie and 480Gb for all the security encryption designed to make it impossible to copy...

    Or is that paranoia?

  25. shane fitzgerald


    ..can we keep this quiet for a while? I'm in the middle of trying to flog a 1.44mb floppy disk here......

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3d Movies?

    If we are speculating future use - what amount of data would a 3d holographic movie need?

  27. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Who would want 500 GB discs?

    And who would want more than 512 kilobytes of RAM ?

    Back in the 1980s, the answer was nobody, but today it is quite hard to run a Windows machine on less than 512 megabytes of RAM.

    So the question "Who would want 500 GB discs?" is averagely-valid today. I have a personal backup space of no less than 76 DVDs, which amounts to close to 330GB total. I'd welcome the opportunity to have it all on one disc, and I'd be even happier to have a second backup copy. But that is a matter of personal convenience.

    On the other hand, the IT industry evolution points strongly upwards in every single domain. Storage space is expanding every year, and its cost is plummeting. CPU power has doubled for decades now, and pure horsepower is set to continue to multiply furiously - albeit with a catch on how efficiently it will be used by compilers due to multithreading constraints. RAM has grown in availability and accessibility every year without fail. In other words, there is no domain in IT technology that is not on a fast track to more powerful and more abundant versions.

    Thanks to that, the variety of data formats available to the common user has grown as well. First we had text, then we got graphics, then we got sound, now we have video. Soon we will get HD video. Who knows what we can have after that ?

    Video is the most demanding application there is. Be it in storage space or computing power, editing video can bring any high-end machine close to a hernia even today. Do you know how much data a simple half-hour film can take ? For having edited a simple school project I can tell you : the raw data takes up 18GB, and that is in VHS-level quality. DVD-level quality would most probably quadruple that, but I don't know that for sure.

    In any case, never knock the next generation of anything IT-related. There will come a point when we will have a need for it.

    Well, except in the sound arena. It's time to stop the nonsense. 7.1 Surround ? I only have two ears, guys, knock it off.

  28. Chris Goodchild

    Over populated

    I'm worried, 500 Gbs on a small disc! What's to stop it falling off the edge? Are they going to put a fence round it? It's the same problem with people you know if they keep breeding at the same rate soon the ones on the outside are going to fall off the edge of the earth.

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