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IBM discovers a hole new idea.

Researchers at IBM have looked to the past to develop a new style 'punch card' able to store vast amounts of data.

IBM's experts have punched holes about 6,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair in a piece of plastic, creating a novel form of data storage.

After six years of work the Zurich-based researchers say they can fit one terabit of data - effectively the contents of a 100-gigabyte computer hard drive - on a postage stamp-size piece of plastic.

The data takes the form of up to a trillion holes drilled by a precise and extremely hot nano-needle, the researchers said.

In the world of data storage, dominated by disk drives which hold bits and bytes electromagnetically and flash memory cards for Palm Pilots and digital cameras that use electrical charges, holding information in hole-punches seems old hat.

However, the company that preceded IBM set the world on fire decades ago by making computer punch cards.

'One of our slogans is back to the future of mechanics,' said Peter Vettiger, leader of the project, called Millipede.

His holes are 10 nanometers, or billionths of a metre, in size and about three billion of them fit in a punch card hole.

He said that in the best of circumstances, including IBM deciding to continue the project's funding, consumers might be able to buy by late 2005 a mechanical memory chip based on the research that would hold five to ten gigabytes of data.

Information, which would be translated into a binary arrangement such as zeros and ones in other computer memory systems, is broken into dots and dashes that become holes and flat surfaces on the plastic surface of the new chip.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 25, 2002
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