Geeking Out: Sony unveils cassette that could hold 370 years of music

By Jeremy Nobile | Staff Writer Published:

With vinyl making a resurgence, it was just a matter of time until the most popular music medium of the '90s would make a comeback too, right? Sony unveiled a new version of the cassette tape at the IEEE International Magnetics Conference in Germany that can hold a massive 148 gigabytes per square inch of magnetic tape, which apparently equates to about 185 terabytes of data per cassette. Most common personal desktop computers only started offering 1 to 2 TBs of hard drive space in the late 2000s (1 TB equals 1,024 GBs, by the way).

As ITWorld reports:

"The technology represents the world's highest recording density for the medium, (Sony) said, and could allow the creation of tape cartridges with a capacity of 185 TB."

"To make the new recording material, Sony used a kind of vacuum thin film-forming technology called sputter deposition. The process involves shooting argon ions at a polymer film substrate, which produces layers of magnetic crystal particles."

Mind blown.

Granted, this "new" version of the cassette tape isn't expected to replace your iPod -- that's just a fun angle for the story. So, don't dust off that Walkman just yet. Like most cassettes still in existence, the device is intended to be used primarily for industrial archiving of data and information over long periods of time. The math savvy writers at ExtremeTech point out that 185 TB of data could hold more than 64.7 million songs on average. At 3 minutes a song, that single tape could theoretically hold a playlist that would last nearly 370 years! ExtremeTech also notes that the information in the Library of Congress could be contained in 10 TBs, meaning one tape could hold the entirety of the library more than 18 times over.

Despite all this amazing technology infusing these thin magnetic ribbons, the most scientific way to correct a tape thrown off its reel will still be jamming a pencil in the middle of those plastic spools.

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