I was reading an article on Ars.Technica about some progress being made in the methods by which data are written to a hard disk. Currently, hard disk manufacturers have hit a plateau in data density on a disk. That is, because hard drives are physical objects, data require physical space on them. There’s a reason you can’t fit hundreds of billions of petabytes on the 2.5″ hard disk in your laptop: there just isn’t enough physical space. A few years ago, they developed perpendicular writing which resulted in a jump in hard drive capacities as manufacturers figured out how to work with it and to utilize it fully. But things have slowed down again, so science is looking for the next thing.

Some super smart scientists recently published a paper outlining various methods that could increase data density on a hard disk from a few hundred gigabits per inch to a terabit per inch. That’s a hell of an increase, with the assumption that “few” is more than two but less than five. And remember, bit ≠ byte. 8 bits is 1 byte. So a terabit is really only 128 gigabytes. Powers of 2 for the win.

I know this is all riveting stuff for you guys, and, really, I’m not going to spend time explaining how a hard drive works or what the methods they’ve described are. You can read the article if you want that.

No, the whole point of this arose when I read the next passage.

The next front runner in data storage density and type is far from clear—for example, a method that involved electron quantum holography was able to store 35 bits per electron, and various solid state technologies continue to vie for attention—but this combined bit-pattern and thermally-assisted magnetic recording seems sufficiently close to current hard disk drives to be viable.

What the holy hell? Electron Quantum Holography? Thermally-assisted Magnetic Recording? Storing bits of data as ELECTRONS? If you have ever wondered before, we live in the future. It is now and it is awesome! It makes me think of Clarke’s Third Law that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”