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From carving in stone to writing in DNA

From carving in stone to writing in
Kees A. Schouhamer Immink
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Early writing systems
Sumerian script and the Egyptian
hieroglyphs are the earliest
writing systems, both emerging
from 3400 to 3200 BC.
There are around 1000
Information density in stone is
one byte per square centimeter.
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Before the invention of the
printing press, almost all books
were copied by hand.
The printing press was invented
by the German Johannes
Gutenberg around 1440, based
on existing screw presses.
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Libraries: palaces of knowledge
The first libraries consisted of
archives of the earliest form of
writing—the clay tablets in
cuneiform script discovered in
temple rooms in Sumer, some
dating back to 2600 BC.
The papal library in Avignon and
Paris Sorbonne library held
around 2,000 volumes.
A Jacquard loom showing punchcards
Early punched cards in the
weaving industry, 1810.
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Recording of music
Thomas Edison invented the first
audio recording using cylinders in
Emile Berliner invented the
gramophone in 1887.
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Punched card
The IBM card, or Hollerith card,
was widely used through much of
the 20th century. Based on the
work by Bouchon in 1725.
Paper tape has been around since
mid 19th century.
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Digital electronic data storage
World’s first hard disk drive.
The IBM 350 disk system (1956)
stored 5 million characters.
It had fifty 24-inch-diameter (61
cm) disks.
Density: 1 bit / mm2
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Optical discs: CD, DVD, and Blu-ray
Digital optical discs were first
brought to market in 1982 for
audio. Later CD-ROM (data) in
1987 and CD-R (recordable) in
A CD can store around 0.5 Gbyte
of data. The Blu-ray disc can
store 25 Gbyte.
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IBM 3380 disk drive
IBM 3380
Introduced in 1980,
Capacity of 2 Gbyte,
Price $100,000.
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Floppy disks
Floppy disks have been widely
used for storage and transport of
A floppy can store around 1.4
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Hard disk drives
Hard disk drives (HDD) have
been the main stay of computer
data storage from its very
Modern HDDs store around 10
HDD still holds sway, but solid-
state storage is rapidly replacing
low-capacity HDDs.
Solid-state Drive
Compatible with HDD’s
Slightly more expensive
than HDD’s
Less power consumption
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Data Centers, the “cloud”
Data centres are the backbones
of the internet giants such as
google, youtube, facebook,
‘cloud’ services, etc.
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DNA is a molecule that carries
the genetic instructions used in
the growth, functioning and
reproduction of all known living
DNA is extremely durable - can
still recover DNA from mammoths
and Neanderthalers.
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DNA-based storage: The Next
et al.
showed the
feasibility of DNA-based storage
in 2012.
A kilogram of DNA can store the
whole Internet (1021 bytes).
Writing and reading is very slow.
The cost of data writing is
tens of thousands times
more expensive per unit
DNA than that of reading.
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Survey DNA-based storage
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