Heat-assisted magnetic recording technology, now being developed by a consortium headed by Carnegie Mellon University's Data Storage Systems Center and Seagate Technology, might enable the storage of one terabit of computer data for every square inch of surface area on a hard disk.
How dense is a terabit per square inch?
One terabit is 1 trillion digits, a series of 1s and 0s. If a person wrote a 1 or a 0 every second in each box on a standard piece of graph paper, it would take 31,709 years, 10 months, 14 days, 1 hour, 44 minutes and 41 seconds to write a terabit. It would require a square piece of graph paper measuring 3 miles on each side.
At a density of 1 terabit per square inch, a photo downloaded off the Internet could be stored in an area the same diameter as a human hair; the information from 16 floppy disks could be stored in an area the size of the period at the end of this sentence.
One trillion grains of salt would fill one cubic meter.
At a density of 1 terabit per square inch, almost six hours of movies could be stored in an area equivalent to a thumbnail; the head of a pin could hold the capacity of a music CD.