A MILLION love songs later, here I am trying to tell you ... who would have known that, with this lyric, Take That could predict the future of music storage for the 21st century?
The mild mannered group of singer-songwriters obviously have an idea about where science is heading in the 21st century.
However, the question is, where would Gary Barlow and the boys find a MP3 player that could store a massive one million love songs?
An iPod classic can now hold up to 160 gigabytes of data which is equivalent to approximately 40,000 songs, while some laptops can store 600 GB of data equivalent to approximately 160,000 songs. Hitachi are claiming that by 2011 they will be able to produce hard drives that store up to 4 terabytes of information, in music terms that’s more than one million songs.
Whether or not we need to store more songs on our iPod, it seems that increased data storage is a sign of things to come.
Also, the storage of data does not just stop at music, this could naturally be applied to the storage of videos, documents, computer programmes for example.
Our current ability to store data is thanks to this year’s Nobel Laureates in Physics, Albert Fert and Peter Grunberg.
In the late 1980s they discovered Giant Magnetoresistance (GMR). Without this, an iPod would not be able to hold our favourite songs. Their discovery changed the way we store data on our PCs too.
GMR is where weak magnetic data, for example our music, is stored on the disk. These magnetic packets of data give rise to large differences in the electrical resistance.
The large electrical resistances are then read by GMR heads, which then go on to convert it into data we can read, hear or see.
The GMR head can be compared to the needle on a record player or the optical lens on a CD player, only much smaller. It moves over the disk and ‘reads’ the information (or music for example) which is stored on the disk as magnetic data. The head changes the magnetic data into electrical signals.
If we can store more packets of magnetic data on to a disk, we could potentially have more powerful computers or store more songs, still within the same space.
The problem is that the current GMR heads cannot read very small packets of magnetic data.
Imagine printing the entire content of this newspaper on this page alone. The problem would be trying to read it. (However if you had a microscope or a magnifying glass it would be possible). The same problem is true of the storing the magnetic data packets.
The GMR head is made up of alternate nano layers of copper and iron. These ‘layers’ are 50,000 times smaller that the width of a hair on your head! This is said to the first real application of nanotechnology.
Hitachi is trying to produce a GMR head that can read even smaller packets of magnetic data. This can be done by increasing the signals gained from the magnetic packets of data.
It is predicted that, in the near future, data storage on notebook and desk-top computers will rise to at least one terabyte which is over one thousand gigabytes.
So Take That may have predicted the future of data storage with the future of the terabyte era, but will they still be in the charts when the release of the first terabyte storage system is around?
Given Take That’s skill in predicting scientific breakthrough, perhaps more information can be taken from their back catalogue of tracks.
“Relight My Fire” is perhaps a prediction for a resurgence of the Bunsen burner in school laboratories?!