Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 21/04/2004News from Nature: researchers at Stanford have found what is being widely trailed as 'the speed limit of hard disks'. Briefly, they took a pulsed stream of electrons, shot them at hard disk recording material and made the pulses go faster and faster until the gunk no longer accurately recorded what happened.

Wednesday 21/04/2004
News from Nature: researchers at Stanford have found what is being widely trailed as 'the speed limit of hard disks'. Briefly, they took a pulsed stream of electrons, shot them at hard disk recording material and made the pulses go faster and faster until the gunk no longer accurately recorded what happened. Sounds like an entertaining way of passing a wet Wednesday afternoon -- if you've worked out how to squirt subatomic particles in globules a few picoseconds long, you might as well enjoy yourself.

This experiment shows, say the mainstream media, that we'll hit a brick wall in hard disk speeds. Fortunately, this is a thousand times faster than anything we're actually doing with the things so we've got a bit of leeway.

But I don't understand, mum. Surely, these particle-pumping physicists were blattering their leptons at whatever clever mix of magnetic molecules we currently smear on our platters, which I have no doubt will indeed run out of puff at some silly speed. It was never designed to do otherwise. As the scientists themselves admit, the mechanism whereby the pulses stop registering is unknown -- so once it is, surely it's a matter of getting clever with the coating and finding a way to accept data at even higher speeds?

So it's not really a speed limit at all: it's just some interesting phenomenon that happens when you push today's technology to its limits: a bit like finding out a 2CV falls apart when you try and drive it over a hundred miles an hour. When we need to get past that point, we'll come up with the goods that let us. Still, I suppose that's no story -- and hence "speed limit reached on hard disks" is the order of the day, despite the fact there's no speed limit and no hard disks were actually involved.

Pah.

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