Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Scientists Suggest Microfiche For Long-Term Archive

It's no secret that we, as an industry, are struggling with the challenge of storing digital data for the long term. And now a pair of academics are suggesting that microfiche--that analog medium we've been using for decades to store old newspapers--could, with 2D barcodes, be the solution to the long-term data storage problem.

One of the bigger problems facing anyone with long-term data storage needs is the requirement to migrate data every few years. Disk systems--whether they have capabilities such as deduplication or Massive Array of Inactive Disks (MAID) to save power by spinning down inactive disk drives--are eventually declared to be at end of life by their vendors. For example, once HugeStor stops servicing your MegaSilo IIIc, you have to migrate the data to a new MegaSilo VIIb or spend long nights worrying about what will happen when the MegaSilo IIIc breaks down.

Tape is somewhat better, but tape formats stay on the market only for so long. While the data on the DLT4000 tapes you sent to Iron Mountain in 1995 is probably still readable, you better migrate it to a new format while you can still get a drive to read the old tapes. Amazingly, consumer optical media like CD and DVD have shown the longest format stability for data, with CD-R now reaching its 20th anniversary of continuous availability.

Microfiche has well-proven data stability. With proper temperature and humidity control, microfiches should remain readable 100 years or longer. The authors tested a 170KB file that contained 191 pages of text. By digitizing and compressing it, the file took up just 12 pages of fiche space. The authors go on to suggest that the resulting fiche could be read by any optical scanner available in the future, eliminating the need for special hardware.

I've always been a sucker for products from the "Gee Mr. Wizard" school. You know, holographic storage, high density optical drives and the like. Reading the technical paper reminds me that I studied chemistry in college, and not just pharmaceuticals and pyrotechnics. So I get a thrill--I know, weird--from reading the academic paper that says that by spreading alternating layers of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene and 1,3,5-Trinitro-1,3,5-triazacyclohexane each .005 microns thick, a medium is created that can hold 1EB/sq. mm when written by a 10nm laser. I even used to own a Silent 700 portable terminal with bubble memory.

  • 1