How would you like to carry around your entire DVD collection on a single disk? That is the promise of a new holographic digital storage technology being developed by General Electric and coming to a computer near you around 2012. Although not the first commercial holographic storage system—that honor goes to InPhase Technologies’ Tapestry™ 300r holographic drive—GE’s system could be the first one aimed at consumers. (InPhase’s holographic drives, which debuted last year, sell for $18,000 and target broadcasters who need to archive television programs.)
Holographic media can store huge amounts of data because information is encoded in layers throughout the entire disk, not just on a single reflective surface as in today’s optical media. In GE’s system, a single CD-size disk made of plastic will be able to store about 1 terabyte of data, equivalent to 110 typical movie DVDs. This kind of capacity would make it possible to back up all your music, photos, home movies, and e-mails in one place; it would also allow for totally new, extremely data-intensive applications, such as Microsoft’s MyLifeBits project, which aims to capture in digital form everything that happens in an individual’s life. Besides automatically archiving and indexing things like e-mails and text documents, the project includes a wearable camera that snaps a picture at least once every 30 seconds, creating a visual index of every day.