Of all the mediums that have passed their heyday, the cassette tape has seemed among the least likely to see a resurgence. However, at the International Magnetics Conference last month, Sony unveiled a reinvention of the magnetic cassette tape that they say can hold up to 185 terabytes of data.
While using tapes to store data is nothing new, this breakthrough represents a 70 times boost in storage capacity to the currently used technology. As Extreme Tech points out, that’s over 3,700 Blu-rays worth of information, or 18x the entire Library of Congress.
To have 180TB of storage with current technology would require thousands of dollars and a bit of specialized computer knowledge. By comparison, the material cost of a standard cassette is a few dollars.
While Sony has said that it intends to commercialize the new technology, it hasn’t yet specified how and when. It’s not hard to imagine the appeal of for people with large libraries of digital music, photos, and video. Unfortunately, current the read/write speeds of tape are too slow for practical or professional music use. Tapes are almost exclusively used for storing large archives affordably at this point.
For speed, solid state drives are still the benchmark. Or, a professional-grade rotary drive works just as well for producers on a budget. But, as new developments occur, it’s not impossible to imagine a future where music is stored and heard, once again, on cassette tapes. Of course, by that point, it will likely sound considerably better.