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R.I.P. iPod: Sony unveils cassette tape that can hold 64,750,000 songs

on May 05, 2014, 9:45am

For a time, the cassette tape absolutely dominated the sales market. In 1990 alone, a staggering 442 million tapes were sold. However, with the rise of the CD, the birth of the mp3, and the eventual resurrection of vinyl, sales dwindled, and by 2007 only a mere 274,000 individual cassettes were sold. Sure, cassette-centric labels like Kissability and Mirror Universe Tapes have offered the cassette a new and niche following, but it’s a clear sign of the times when the cassette’s accompanying Walkman is regarded like some alien artifact.

Now, though, Sony has brought the cassette back from the dead by unveiling a tape that can hold a whopping 148 gigabytes per square inch. If you can’t do the math, that’s 185 terabytes of total data. We’ll wait as you toss your iPod into the trash.

The tape, which was unveiled this weekend at the International Magnetics Conference in Dresden, holds approximately 74 times the amount of data of standard tapes. (For comparison, by 2010, most standard tapes could only store about 29.5 GB per square inch.)

Divine influence or magic aside, how exactly did Sony manage to boost the potential of the 50-plus-year-old magnetic tape technology? According to Gizmodo:

“The tape uses a vacuum-forming technique called sputter deposition to create a layer of magnetic crystals by shooting argon ions at a polymer film substrate. The crystals, measuring just 7.7 nanometers on average, pack together more densely than any other previous method.”

As ITWorld explains, “By tweaking the sputter conditions and developing a soft magnetic underlayer on the film, the manufacturer was able to create a layer of fine magnetic particles with an average size of 7.7 nanometers.”

So, just how much data can a tape with 185 TB capacity actually hold? Here’s a few handy comparisons (via ExtremeTech):

– It’s three Blu-rays’ worth of data per square inch. Or, a total of 3,700 Blu-rays on a single tape. That’s a stack of boxes that would be nearly 15 feet high.

– A single tape holds five more TB than this hard drive storage array, which has to be custom-made and runs for $9,305.

– A total of 64,750,000 songs. If the average song is, say, three minutes, that’s enough music to last you 134,896 days.

– The entirety of the Library of Congress represents about 10 total TB. One tape can hold 18.5 versions of the Library of Congress.

The tape will be available for commercial sale, but no word yet on a release date. However, as Gizmodo points out, the super tape was originally developed for “long-term, industrial-sized data backup” and not necessarily for music, game, and video storage and playback.

Below, watch a video on the history of cassette tapes:

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