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IBM aims for data storage record

Big Blue says it set a new computer data storage record, an increase over the milestone it achieved less than five months ago.

IBM said today it set a new computer data storage record, beating the previous milestone the company achieved less than five months ago.

By cramming more data in the same amount of storage real estate, hard disk drives can hold more data, and become cheaper and potentially faster.

IBM's new technology packs in 35 gigabits of data per square inch, beating its previous record of 20 gigabits. This is the equivalent of 4.3 gigabytes (GB) each square inch, IBM said.

Typically, the total capacity of notebook PC hard drives today ranges between 4GB and 10GB.

In a square inch of space, a hard drive could hold 3 hours and 15 minutes of compressed video, according to IBM, about the equivalent of two full-length movies. That much disk space per square inch could also accommodate nearly 77 hours of audio, the company said.

Data is written onto the new magnetic "media"--the metal-alloy materials that coat the hard-disk platters, which is where the data is stored as a pattern of bits. The bits are tiny oblong regions magnetized in either of two opposite directions. If bits can be made smaller, more data can be stored within the same disk area. But if the bits become too small, they may not be able to maintain their magnetic orientations for the many years required for commercial products.

IBM says that the new technology is more stable at high data densities than was previously possible.

In addition to possible reductions in cost and increases in the speed to access data, fewer disks are needed to achieve more data storage which means more reliable drives.

Notebook computers, in particular, would benefit greatly from these advancements. IBM already supplies tiny hard drives for portables such as Compaq Computer's 3-pound Armada M300, which uses a drive that packs in over 6GB of data. IBM also sells an even smaller "Microdrive"--the size of a matchbook--that can now hold 340MB of data. The capacity of both of these drives could be increased exponentially with this technology.