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Data Storage Pioneer Wins Millennium Technology Prize

Unknown Lamer posted about 8 months ago | from the thanks-for-getting-us-to-a-buck-a-gig dept.

Data Storage 40

jones_supa (887896) writes "The British scientist Stuart Parkin, whose work made it possible for hard disks to radically expand in size, has been awarded the Millennium Technology Prize (Millennium-teknologiapalkinto). Professor Parkin's discoveries rely on magneto-resistive thin-film structures and the development of the giant magnetoresistance (GMR) spin-valve read head. These advances allow more information to be stored on each disk platter. Technology Academy Finland — the foundation behind the award — justifies the prize by saying that Parkin's innovations allow us to store large volumes of data in cloud services." He is currently working on Racetrack memory, which would obsolete flash and hard disks (and probably even RAM).

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Them Brits is smart (0, Offtopic)

MondoGordo (2277808) | about 8 months ago | (#46705759)

First!

Re:Them Brits is smart (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46705869)

Yeah but they have ass breath and rotting, discolored teeth.

Re:Them Brits is smart (1)

itsdapead (734413) | about 8 months ago | (#46706355)

Yeah but they have ass breath and rotting, discolored teeth.

Only because our leaders keep taking advice from the Americans about how to run a health service (and for some reason, dentistry has taken a far worse hit than other services: even if you can find a national health service dentist you still have to pay non-trivial sums for treatment if you're not a child or OAP - c.f. Doctors where the worst case is max ~£10/month for prescriptions. I guess not enough babies die from toothache to motivate the opposition).

Anyway, once they all rot and fall out you can get dentures and enjoy unnaturally white, uniform, plastic-looking teeth just like an American.

Plus, we're much more reluctant to humiliate teenagers by forcing them to wear mediaeval torture devices to straighten their teeth just when they're most sensitive about their appearance.

Re:Them Brits is smart (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 8 months ago | (#46706399)

Plus, we're much more reluctant to humiliate teenagers by forcing them to wear mediaeval torture devices to straighten their teeth just when they're most sensitive about their appearance.

Instead, you've decided to go with the long drawn out process of having them be sensitive about their appearance for the rest of their lives.

Why settle for just a few years of humiliation, when you can have a lifetime's worth?

Suddenly all those stories about British schools make much more sense. ;-)

Re:Them Brits is smart (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46711953)

People are only sensitive about their appearance due to the influence of American culture in the first place...

Re:Them Brits is smart (2)

MrNemesis (587188) | about 8 months ago | (#46706745)

I know, don't feed... but you're wrong :)

http://www.economist.com/node/... [economist.com]

Brits have some of the healthiest teeth in the world, but it's a different culture here than in the US. In the US, if you're poor, you don't get your teeth done because it's expensive. Here it's free-for-all due to the NHS, but the NHS budget is such that it would be considered a waste to spend taxpayers money on the cosmetic treatments such as the capping and polishing and whitening that are so common in the states. Straightening is normally only done when there's a medical need for it. Obviously, all the same cosmetic treatments are available privately but most people balk at the cost even without the cultural bias - free private dentistry is a perk of my job but still no-one goes for american-style white gnashers.

Haven't had a cavity or anything in fifteen years but by american standards my teeth might well be considered horrible since they're not pearly white (thanks, tea, coffee and fags!); personally, I don't like perfectly even white teeth since to me they look like a horse just jumped out of a toothpaste advert.

Now, if you'd have brought marmite into the conversation you'd have had a point.

Re:Them Brits is smart (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 months ago | (#46708593)

IT's funny how fast you get used to them. White teeth sued t stand out. Now when watching a show an on character has, what woud have been normal yellow teeth a decade ago, it stand out as dingy.

Re:Them Brits is smart (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 8 months ago | (#46705891)

Well, one of them...

Re:Them Brits is smart (1)

MondoGordo (2277808) | about 8 months ago | (#46705977)

At least 4 living... Tim Berners-Lee, Stephen Hawking, Peter Higgs and many more now deceased.

Wow, 16GB? (0)

InsultsByThePound (3603437) | about 8 months ago | (#46705971)

I think some of my BluRay movies barely fits on that these days, and that's when it's converted to mp4. I thank this guy for making my porn collection possible.

Re:Wow, 16GB? (3, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | about 8 months ago | (#46706357)

I still remember the first computer I encountered with a 1GB hard drive back in 1995.

At the time, with Windows installed the HD was so overwhelmingly empty as to have an echo.

People used to go over and sit at the machine just to bring up a file browser and see the listed free space and go "oooh .... pretty".

Fast forward a few decades, and you can buy and 8GB USB stick in the express checkout at Wal Mart next to the bubble gum (literally).

Every now and then I need to remind people that their smart phone is a computer which is at least a million times faster and with at least a million times more capacity that the first ones I got to use. Because storage was measured in KB, and processor speed was in KHz.

I once joked to a university professor that 1GB of iron core memory would alter Earth's magnetic field beyond belief. Now I can't find many people who know what I mean by iron core memory.

Of course, I had an onion on my belt, which was the style in those days ...

Re:Wow, 16GB? (1)

darilon (752912) | about 8 months ago | (#46707035)

Bah, you kids and your fancy schmancy 1Gb HDD. My first HDD was 10Mb. Of course, it was an upgrade to the 720kb floppy drive on my Atari ST with the massive 512Kb RAM (later upgraded to 1024Kb by soldering more RAM chips). All of these were big upgrades to tape drives (literally audio cassette drives) - the seek times on those were..... disturbingly long. I still have an old 8088 machine in the corner of my lab with a 20Mb hdd (and an ISA monochrome video card).

Re:Wow, 16GB? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 months ago | (#46708605)

bah. In my day, we were envious of the system whose tape spindle had faster spin response.

Re:Wow, 16GB? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46712563)

Ooh yeah, I remember tapes. My first computer (32k RAM, what a *beast*) stored programs on tapes and we... kinda hated it. Press play, go outside and play for 30 minutes, come back, bad load... adjust volume, rewind, rinse, repeat. In a few hours, if you were lucky, you might get to play kilopedes.

Which was actually a really cool game. Now where did I leave my onion?

Radical expansion (3, Interesting)

CurryCamel (2265886) | about 8 months ago | (#46706079)

TFA:

The first use of spin-valve sensors in hard disk drive read heads was in the IBM ® Deskstar 16GP Titan, which was released in late 1997 with 16.8 GB of storage.

1997. That's why I was scratching my head and wondering what radical expansion. In my view, HDDs have expanded on a steady exponential curve in size since ... forever.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hard_drive_capacity_over_time.svg [wikipedia.org]

Re:Radical expansion (2)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 months ago | (#46708613)

A cuple of time on there they were hitting dead ends, then some smart person invent a new way!

unwarranted "cloud" buzzword (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46706099)

Dear foundation,
Cloud storage services could easily provide the same disk space even without this discovery because their main expense is bandwidth.

Re:unwarranted "cloud" buzzword (2)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 8 months ago | (#46706167)

because their main expense is bandwidth.

And they get to offset that cost by running a more efficient operation thanks to higher density disks. Ultimately that also means less hard drives than if they were all using 6.4 GB driver, and less staff to chase them down when they flake out. Not to mention what they save on their power bill. Also, sometime in the last year cloud storage and services stopped being a buzzword and entered reality.

Re:unwarranted "cloud" buzzword (2)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 8 months ago | (#46706179)

Without this their main expense wouldn't be bandwidth.

Re:unwarranted "cloud" buzzword (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 8 months ago | (#46706447)

Without this their main expense wouldn't be bandwidth.

Yeah, they'd be electricity and property taxes for the acres of space you'd need for all those drives.

I remember some of the components which used to be hooked up to the VAXen at my school ... the MBytes/unit volume ratio wasn't exactly favorable. :-P

Is racetrack memory even persistent? (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 8 months ago | (#46706113)

I understand how it might be a viable substitute for ram, but I'm not sure if it's persistent like flash storage. Which would make it an abysmal substitute for hard drives.

Re:Is racetrack memory even persistent? (2)

bra1n (3416909) | about 8 months ago | (#46706517)

I understand how it might be a viable substitute for ram, but I'm not sure if it's persistent like flash storage. Which would make it an abysmal substitute for hard drives.

The first line in the linked wikipedia page says its non-volatile, so it should be persistent.

Re:Is racetrack memory even persistent? (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 8 months ago | (#46706747)

The first line of the linked wikipedia article:

Racetrack memory (or domain-wall memory (DWM)) is an experimental non-volatile memory device under development at IBM's Almaden Research Center by a team led by Stuart Parkin

So yes, it's persistent. How persistent is a separate question. Flash memory for example is also classified as non-volatile, but while data won't be immediately lost when power is removed there's a definite unpowered data-retention life - after all those billions of tiny capacitors all have leakage currents - leave them unrefreshed long enough and bye-bye data.

Facepalm ... (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 8 months ago | (#46706235)

You know, storing vast quantities of stuff on disk was a good starting point, and worthy of recognition.

And then they had to go and mention the cloud and spoil it.

This is why we can't have nice things, because you can't talk about anything without reverting to the latest buzz words.

Re:Facepalm ... (1)

lgw (121541) | about 8 months ago | (#46706777)

Well, it is the future. Most people just aren't interested in having their entertainment in files they schlepp around from device to device. Having it all "in the cloud" so that it's available from the mobile-device-of-the-moment is what most people actually want.

Wanting to manage your own files is a weird, geeky thing. Always has been, really.

Re:Facepalm ... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 8 months ago | (#46706857)

Having it all "in the cloud" so that it's available from the mobile-device-of-the-moment is what most people actually want.

Well, the media companies like it too.

Since they're largely also ISPs, they can charge you for the media, charge you for the bandwidth to access your media every time you use it, and make your media go away any time they decide the license terms have changed. You'll pay through the nose, and then pay again and again until they take it away.

And this is precisely why I won't buy any Blu Rays with that stupid Ultraviolet crap on it. As far as I know, you can't watch a movie on a plane or at your cottage, because it won't be able to connect to the server to confirm you are licensed to watch it.

And this is also why I'm ripping my older DVDs, so that I can watch the movie when and how I want.

If controlling our own media is a geeky thing, then I guess I'm still a geek.

Re:Facepalm ... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 months ago | (#46708683)

Does that happen anywhere?
My cloud storage is free, and doesn't impact my ISP bill at all. Nor doe sit impact my phone bill.

Don't confuse controlling you media with make crap up and just being grumpy..You could rip your Blu-Ray disk as well and not worry about it.
Really that is the Nerd thing to do. SInce you aren't going about it smartly, then yes, you are being a geek.
ZING!
Yes, Blu-Ray implementation of HD drives me up a wall as well.
I still say it one becasue it's packaging was Blue instead of Red.

Re:Facepalm ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46706901)

How about some cheese to go with that whine?

Re:Facepalm ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46707089)

It's a good thing you stopped reading there, because you never go to the claim that his new bubble memory would replace flash, hard disks and probably RAM.

Re:Facepalm ... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 months ago | (#46708653)

Specifically It's a neologism.

That said, what's wrong with buzzwords? The take an idea and let you express it easily.

Re:Facepalm ... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 8 months ago | (#46711475)

..yeah exactly more so because without this invention there would be much much more demand for shared cloud storage and cloud streaming services. .but really, thanks to this now you could store several years worth of music on your desktop quite easy.

Expand in size? (1)

PPH (736903) | about 8 months ago | (#46706311)

Its been years since I've even seen a 24", 50 platter hard drive. They seem to get smaller every year.

Re:Expand in size? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46711125)

Largest size hard drive I've owned personally was the size of 2 5.25" drive bays -- I don't know how many platters it had. It was a seagate, 80 MB, MFM -- this was in the early 90's.

Professor Parkin (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 8 months ago | (#46706703)

Professor Parkin work dealt mainly with spinning disks for data storage.
Parkin's son's work deals mostly with shaking.

Re:Professor Parkin (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 8 months ago | (#46707045)

Parkin designed the hard disk head parkin' mechanics.

Millennium? (1)

slapout (93640) | about 8 months ago | (#46706705)

Millennium award? That sounds either 13 years late or way, way too early.

Re:Millennium? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 months ago | (#46708701)

It's called the becasue its a statue of a Corellian YT-1300.

FYI: to get the most out of your YT-1300 I recommend some personal modifications.

I'm sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46708497)

...this was invented by an American first...

Re:I'm sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46712013)

More specifically, someone from Cupertino...

Stupid Americans... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46709141)

"which would obsolete flash and hard disks"

I think you're missing a VERB there... 'Obsolete' is not a verb... Neither is 'leverage', by the way, dickhead 'business types'...

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