March 15, 2002
CMU's Data Storage Systems Center (DSSC), Seagate Technology, and four other industry and university participants matched funds with the U.S. Commerce Department's Advanced Technology Program to support a $21.6 million project to enable computers to store more data than you can read in a lifetime of summers at the beach.
DSSC, headed by Robert M. White [University Professor of ECE and EPP], concentrates on the hard drive, which contains disks, a head, motor, electronics, etc. The hard drive stores the information you read and write on a computer in the form of ones and zeros. Through the magic of magnetics, the head writes on the disks. With the greater use of computers, these disks have become increasingly crowded. Because of this crowding, information may decay away as a result of heating even at room temperature.
In a process called heat-assisted magnetic recording, researchers use "harder" magnetic material on the disk, the usual magnetic field for recording and a dash of heat from a laser to soften the disk's harder "film." They expect to improve the stability of stored data and increase the density to a terabyte per square inch. That's about a trillion bits. Average books contain about 10 million bits.
(Reprinted with permission of Carnegie Mellon Magazine from the Spring 2002 edition).