Stupid hipster 80s fetishism notwithstanding, cassette tapes don’t get much love. That’s a shame, because magnetic tape is still a surprisingly robust way to back up data. Especially now: Sony just unveiled tape that holds a whopping 148 GB per square inch, meaning a cassette could hold 185 TB of data. Prepare for the mixtape to end all mixtapes. Sony’s technique, which will be discussed at today’s International Magnetics Conference in Dresden, uses a vacuum-forming technique called sputter deposition to create a layer of magnetic crystals by shooting argon ions at a polymer film substrate.
Once upon a time, the best way for you to back up the entirety of your computer’s data was to use the medium that was once the best way to listen to music: magnetic tape. Writable optical media, cheap hard drives, and cloud storage eventually became the consumer norm, but tape drives still hung around as one of the best options for mass data backup. Sony has developed a new technology that pushes tape drives far beyond where they once were, leading to individual tapes with 185 terabytes of storage capacity. Back in 2010, the standing record for how much data magnetic tape could store was 29.5GB per square inch. To compare, a standard dual-layer Blu-ray disc can hold 25GB per layer — this is why big budget, current-gen video games can clock in at around 40 or 50GB. That, however, is an entire disc, whereas magnetic tape could store more than half of that capacity in one little square inch.