The race to cram more information into even smaller spaces shows no sign of slowing: last week, Seagate announced the first 1-inch hard drive with an 8GB, the ST1. The drive is capable of storing 200 hours of audio or approx. 4,000 songs, and is also available in 6GB, 5GB, 4GB, 3GB and 2.5GB sizes.

The announcement is a blow to Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, formed when Hitachi bought out IBM's drive business in 2002, who pioneered the format and who's 6GB Microdrive 3K6 was the previous portable storage king.

With the advent of Perpedicular Recording, Microdrive capacities will continue to soar. A 10GB prototype Microdrive featuring this new technology was displayed by Japan's Tohoku University yesterday, and as the song says, the only way is up!

While traditional Longitudinal Recording is believed to be limited to areal densities of around 120 gigabits per square inch, Hitachi GST engineers have already demonstrated Perpendicular Recording at 230Gb per square inch. Expected to be introduced in 2007, this translates to a 20 gigbyte Microdrive in your MP3 player or digital camera, and up to one terabyte (1,000GB) in your PC's standard 3.5-inch hard drive.

As the technology matures, Perpendicular Recording is expected to increase storage capacities by as much as a 10-fold, representing 60 gigabytes on a Compact Flash card and desktop hard drives of three to five terabytes over the next 5-7 years. If you think that sounds a bit silly, consider for a minute how far we have come in the same period to today: the original Microdrive was just 340MB in 1999, increasing over 20-fold in six years to 8GB.

The increase in desktop capacities has been even more dramatic: in 1998 many of us made do with 6.4GB drives, and by 2000 drives were typically 20-40GB, with Maxtor topping the pile at 80GB. In 2005, drives are measured not in tens of gigabytes, but in the hundreds: 200GB, 300GB, 400GB - the most capacious drive today is a whopping 500GB!

In that context, a 5TB hard drive seems entirely plausible. Of course, it is somewhat inconceivable what you will fill it with, but who can predict what we will need to store in the year 2012? &quot;If you build it, they will <strike>come</strike> fill it&quot;?

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