November 27, 2006, 12:12 pm
Paper as an Electronic Storage Media
By Henry Woodbury
Sainul Abideen, an Indian engineering student has created a new data-storing technology in which electronic files are converted to geometric shapes and printed in dense patterns on ordinary paper. These “Rainbow Technology” sheets can then be read via a customized scanner and decoded into the original files. An A4 sheet (8.27 x 11.69″) can store up to 256GB, making this an extremely affordable storage technology — Abideen’s “Rainbow Versatile Disk” has a storage density greater than high-end DVDs, uses less raw material to manufacture, and is biodegradable.
The idea of paper-based storage creates intriguing possibilities for data distribution. Imagine this: You buy a newspaper, tear out an RVD swatch, insert it into a RVD-capable device (an MP3-player, a cell phone, a PDA), and listen to the audio version of the printed text. Or listen to some new music. Or watch movie trailers.
Update: Commenter DD points to a Wikipedia article that casts doubt on the accuracy of the news report summarized above.
As referenced by Wikipedia, here’s Jeremy Reimer’s debunking. He points out that print resolution and scanner technology likely limits the storage capacity of a single A4 sheet to 100MB after error correction. Reimer also illuminates the importance (and limitations) of Abideen’s use of geometric shapes to render data:
The claim that “circles, triangles, and squares” can achieve … extra orders of magnitude can be easily challenged. There is a word for using mathematical algorithms to increase the storage space of digital information: it’s called compression. No amount of circles and triangles could be better than existing compression algorithms: if it was, those formulas would already be in use!
This reminded me of a story related to PARC’s efforts to create an electronic resuable paper, that would allow printer-like devices to erase old images and create new images 1000s of times on the same sheet of paper. See the NYT story at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/27/technology/27xerox.html?ref=technology.
Posted by Lisa Agustin on November 29, 2006 at 1:23 pm
There’s a lot of discussion going on about whether this is a hoax, or at least a vastly overstated report.
There’s some discussion of it on wikipedia
Posted by DD on December 1, 2006 at 11:15 am