How to fit 500GB on a DVD

Brian Lawrence of GE's holographic project, explains how his team designed a system that stores 500GB on a single DVD.


  1. I’ll bet there wasn’t any dry underwear at Sony when they heard the news. Just think of the millions spent on forcing Blue-ray upon the world.

  2. Won’t the cloud and even cheaper HDD and flash based storage stop this from any great success? I’m confused.

  3. The volume of a traditional disc is supposed to protect the layer used to store the data. If you use volume for data as well, aren’t we losing our protective layer? Or does the 500GB include the butt-load of error correcting bits?

  4. Well, that was an almost completely information free video. I was eager to hear some actual “how”, and instead all he says is that holographic media stores data throughout the volume of the disk. Well, no shit. That’s kinda the definition of holographic data storage. Nothing about the chemistry of the new polycarbonates GE developed for this? No information about the frequencies of light used to write and read? Speculation on data rate limits? Optical design of read heads? Vibration sensitivity and whether this can be made into a consumer product or will be doomed to an interesting trick done on an expensive isolation table?

    Let’s have some actual information about this! Gleeglop is right that there have been endless parades of amazing new high density storage breakthroughs that all evaporate, usually for some technical reason like the need for high power lasers, or sensor heads that ride a couple nanometers from the disc making it unsuitable for real world hardware. I was hoping to hear some technical explanation of why this breakthrough is different and may actually come to commercial use.

  5. For archival purposes this will be fantastic. For daily use though? Not so much. Trading the occasional HD crash for a scratched disc? I think libraries and universities will eat this up. Home users? Probably not, not at least for a LONG time….

    Of course when Apple released the “Fat Mac” I did say “Who the hell needs 512k of memory” so we could catch up sooner than I care to think about.

  6. So they’re saying the human brain only holds 128 megabytes of data? That’s got to be wrong. 128 MB equals about 30 songs, and I know I can recall more music than that, let alone all the memories that are equivalent to hours of video footage. And I have a lousy memory — what about people who have perfect photographic recall? The actual memory storage of our brains has got to be in the terabytes or petabytes of data range, if not more.

  7. @dagfooyo I think you may be neglecting to consider any compression algorithms associated with neuron-based data storage. Indeed, does a neuron-based data storage mechanism even need to conform with binary logic? Is a neuron simply on or off? Or are there middle states (varying voltages) that can carry separate means? I honestly do not know, but pose the question rhetorically.

  8. Dagfooyo is right, estimates for the human brain as 1-10 TB are confirmed bellow. I think the key in that statement was over course of a lifetime, however I still do not see in what context this is taken in. Otherwise those that composed the report do only possess the limited mental capacity, if they were unable to deduce the absurdity of that statement.

  9. Sounds cool and all, but definitely think optical media is dead. With the tremendously rapid growth in capacities of magnetic storage, the rapid drop in the price of flash based memory, and the prevalence of broadband internet access, I would be willing to place a pretty large wager that BluRay will be the final popular optical disk format.

    Heck, I would be surprised that if in the next several years some company didn’t attempt to come out with a retail video format based off of SDxC cards. It won’t be long before cards are available in 64GB & 128GB sizes, which best Blu-Ray’s current maximum capacity.

  10. Blaine: I had the same reaction. I used to work for GE in the late 90’s early 10’s.

    Who wants to bet that these folks did not report to a Black Belt during the process of creating this doo-dad? :-)

  11. Measuring brain function in the same terms that we measure computers is going to be a pretty sloppy estimation almost by definition. Despite what the singularians would have you believe the two are fundamentally different things, each very good at its own function and very poor at the other.

  12. @#11, 12, 15 et al

    Comparing the brain with data storage devices is specious if not outright odious.

    Such comparisons presume facts not in existence.

    And such comparisons seem always to be presented by people hyping their new whizbang thing.

  13. I decided to break-down his “4000x more storage than the brain” claim. Yes, you can’t measure brain storage in a clear-cut way, but you can get some ideas of its storage, and he must have been basing his claim on something (I hope). I may have made math errors, but I checked it over a few times so I don’t think so…

    There are 100 billion neurons in the human brain, but only 10 billion of them are “Cortical Pyramidal Cells” which pass information to one another through synaptic connections. So if 8 CPC neurons makes up a “byte” of knowledge, treating each neuron as a “bit,” then the disc would be 400x more powerful than the human brain. (He claimed 4000x, which I still don’t get.)

    But real brain storage is not in how many neurons there are but in how many connections there are between the neurons. There are 100 trillion synaptic connections among the cortical pyramidal cells, which is 25x more than his stupid disc if we call each connection a “bit.”

    So he may have used real numbers to make his claim, but he was being either stupid or dishonest in using that comparison.

    1. Spacetime86,

      Your old username is keyed to an e-mail address using the first two words of the name of your institution rather than the initials. E-mail me if you need help.

  14. maybe the human brain can store 500 MB – 500 GB of data – maybe 500 TB. very hard to say.

    if my understanding of say a song covers the melody, that can be represented in a 5 KB MIDI file. the same song as uncompressed WAV might be 50 MB.

    comparisons are odious.

  15. The problem with a holographic disk is that it disappears when the power to the holographic generator is cut.

    As to brain data density, How many neurons dos it take to store one bit (Pretending you can translate brain storage space to bits)? My guess is quite a few. What percentage of neurons are dedicated to memory? My guess is not that many.

  16. Great way to store all your GE subsidiary CBS shows that you got via P2P. I wonder if they sell enough of these they’ll drop their lawsuits?

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