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Etched in glass

February 10, 2020.

1978 “Superman” movie on a 7.5 cm x 7.5 cm x 2 mm piece of silica glass.

1978 “Superman” movie on a 7.5 cm x 7.5 cm x 2 mm piece of silica glass. © Jonathan Banks, Microsoft.

Silica is a Microsoft-led research project that uses ultrafast laser optics and artificial intelligence to store data on quartz glass. To test the concept, Microsoft teamed up with Warner Bros. Entertainment and, together, the team managed to store and retrieve the entire, original Superman movie from 1978 on a piece of glass the size of a coaster (7.5cm2). Quartz glass is extremely resistant and impervious to treatments that would make traditional magnetic storage devices tremble: you can microwave it, boil it, run it by the most powerful electromagnet, or all three, with impunity. The goal of project Silica was to develop an extraordinarily durable archiving technology able to conserve data for millennia. Warner Bros. is looking for a way to protect its priceless collection of image and sound recordings, including the original recording of Casablanca, radio shows from the 1940s and many other historic items. Warner Bros. approached Microsoft as soon as it heard of project Silica; their first large-scale project was the “etching” of the film Superman, a 75.6GB file.

YouTube, “Microsoft's plan to store data for 10,000 years.”

Microsoft, “Project Silica.”