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Desktop Film Data Recorder

Make sure your data outlives you
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Notwithstanding the proliferation of digital photography, film is a great medium overall. One of its chief advantages is its longevity: whereas I'm not sure if I could find a way to read, say, an early 1980s era backup tape, I can be certain that, properly preserved, film will be usable for 100 years or more. It also has surprisingly high resolution, and can be read optically by both humans and computers without much trouble.

These factors combined make it potentially an excellent medium for long term storage of data, but this raises the question of how we get the data on there. We need a device that's small enough to easily connect to a desktop computer and cheap enough for the average user to be able to afford. We need a YTK Industries Desktop Film Data Recorder!

The color film cartridge is loaded into the device much the same way it would be loaded into a camera. The print head consists of three LEDS (red, green, and blue), and a hole the size of a single recorded dot on the film. The print head moves across the film from one edge to the other, recording a single dot after each movement. When the line is completed, the print head returns to the beginning, and the film is advanced by a single dot's length, and the process starts again. To speed up the process, the print head actually consists of an array of such individual printer elements, so it can print hundreds or thousands of dots with each exposure (even on multiple lines at the same time) with the computer keeping track of the order that the data is sent to the printer. When the roll is printed, it's removed and sent off for developing. Later, the data can be read from the film by any scanner capable of the necessary resolution, or even (in theory) by a human being with a loupe and a lot of patience.

But how much data could we actually get onto a roll of film? Well, a high-quality, low-noise film such as Fuji Velvia 50 claims a resolving power of 160 lines/mm, which translates into 320 pixels/mm, or 102400 pixels/mm^2. A frame of 35mm film is 24x36mm, or 864mm^2. Multiply that by 3 because we're recording in RGB. So, a single frame of film could store 102400*24*36*3 bits, or roughly 33 megabytes. A 36 exposure roll could thus hold almost 1.2GB. Throw out some of that storage capacity for error correction, and you're still looking at more data than can fit on a CD-R—and you have the peace of mind that your data will be available no matter how far technology progresses in the future.

ytk, Jun 13 2012

Fainting goats... http://en.wikipedia.../wiki/Fainting_goat
..it must be true, it's on wikipedia [not_morrison_rm, Jun 14 2012]

[link]






       "microdot"
Vernon, Jun 13 2012
  

       My preference is sequencing it into the mitochondrial DNA of female goats. Ideal for archiving data, with a nanny-mother goat-kid strategy.   

       Worst comes to the worst, at least you can eat the data.
not_morrison_rm, Jun 13 2012
  

       Interesting concept, but I think you missed a factor of 1000. 33MB * 36 frames is 1.2GB, not 1.2TB. That makes this significantly less compelling if I need 75 roll of film to back up my 90GB archive of digital photos. You might still be able to market it for longevity, but if it had actually been 1.2TB that would have been mass-market worthy.
scad mientist, Jun 13 2012
  

       [not_morrison_rm] - clever, especially given estimates of the amount of 'junk' DNA which is essentially meaningless and doesn't contribute to the development of the DNA's host body. Replacing this with your email archive, or treasured collection of 'specialist' pictures should cause no adverse effects to the goat. Furthermore, if the goats breed and the goat population grows, your backup and business continuity problems are solved. Finally, data densities are high as you can code in quarternary rather than binary.
hippo, Jun 13 2012
  

       You are correct, [sm]. I was thinking gigabytes but I typed TB. Thanks for the correction; it's been fixed.   

       Consider, though, that this is just the amount of data that can be stored in a single 36 exposure roll, which is 4.5 feet of film. If you're really serious about data archival, you can upgrade to the Pro version of our product, which can accomodate a 1000' magazine that allows you to store a whopping 250GB of data for nearly all eternity.
ytk, Jun 13 2012
  

       Or, a single 220 roll film (144cm x 6cm) should be about 25GB of storage.
hippo, Jun 13 2012
  

       Incidentally, in case anyone's interested, but the concept of storing data digitally on film isn't really new. In fact, that's how certain types of digital soundtracks for motion pictures are distributed. The digital data is printed either in the margins outside the perforations, or between the individual perforations. So the actual data density of 35mm film is somewhat higher, perhaps as much as a third to half again more than specified in this idea. But a lot of that space would probably be devoted to error correction data, since reliability is the main selling point of the product.
ytk, Jun 13 2012
  

       //'junk' DNA//   

       An interesting problem would arise with this strategy. If you keep your archives in the form of goats, I could easily give you a document which encoded some harmful genetic element, thereby erasing your entire archive.   

       Moreover, I could encode a retrovirus, thereby wiping out the archives of anyone else who shared the same data- farm.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 13 2012
  

       //Or, a single 220 roll film (144cm x 6cm) should be about 25GB of storage.//   

       Well, 25 gigabits, so only 3.3 gigabytes. Still it'd be enough to encode an entire feature length movie in HD, albeit pretty highly compressed.
ytk, Jun 13 2012
  

       //I could encode a retrovirus,   

       Sorry I don't do hosted goats, these are my goats, you go get your own.   

       Anyway all the really vital stuff is stored on a stand-alone goat, so not much chance of infection. I'm also on the lookout for feed bags, marked "Stuxnet". Also the EULA on my goats comes with a strict "no trolling" policy, I kid you not.
not_morrison_rm, Jun 13 2012
  

       Someone might break into your garden in the night and RAID your goats though.
hippo, Jun 13 2012
  

       Ahh, but they have special security collars, accessorised by Jean-Paul Goatier.
not_morrison_rm, Jun 13 2012
  

       //all the really vital stuff is stored on a stand-alone goat//   

       Would one goat have sufficient capacity? You'd need at least a couple of biggergoats.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 13 2012
  

       I think your goats are really WORMs.
hippo, Jun 13 2012
  

       "We're gonna need a bigger goat."
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 13 2012
  

       //I think your goats are really WORMs.   

       I think you're thinking of the Diet of Worms, but I could be wrong.
not_morrison_rm, Jun 13 2012
  

       Use one of the X chromosomes - humans can survive (barely) with only one of them, so there's spare capacity.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 13 2012
  

       Ok so I maybe way off base here, but could you not use 32 colours to code 32 bits in each pix or 64 for a much higher storage capacity? I'm maintance in a printing house and I have sensors that can see 256 colours easly.In a 32 exposer roll using 8bit to a byte and 1024bytes in a megabyte and 256 colour you get 2.6 gigabytes a cell or 83.2 gigabytes a roll. Or if you moved to [ytk]'s 1000' roll 18Terabytes.
dev45, Jun 13 2012
  

       You could, but it would complicate things considerably, and you'd pay a huge price in terms of reliability. Color film consists of three layers that respond to red, green, and blue light. So for each pixel, you have either a 1, i.e. exposed, or a 0, not exposed, for each color. In order to use more colors, you'd need to control your exposure time carefully and consistently, so the density for each color is adjusted. You'd also need to have calibration data for the film stock you're using, since film responds nonlinearly to light, and different film stocks respond in different ways. And if your film fades over time, it could alter the data on the film unless you have some way of controlling for it when you decode the data.   

       Basically, by using more colors, you're turning it into an analog system. But by limiting it to 3 bits per pixel, you keep things in the digital world, and thus keep the advantages of digital over analog—simple implementation, more reliable decoding, and far superior noise rejection.
ytk, Jun 13 2012
  

       Ok that makes sence.
dev45, Jun 13 2012
  

       You still have the problem with achieving consistent density across film stocks. If you just make a 1 "a lot of light" and a 0 "no light", you don't need to know anything about the response curve of the film you're using, whether it's daylight or tungsten stock, negative or reversal, and so on. Also, it's entirely possible that different parts of the film will fade differently, in which case your calibration data is useless. And you still have the problem of dealing with noise that's inherent to analog systems.   

       But most importantly, one of the advantages of this system is that it's inherently human readable, which means it's inherently machine readable by any conceivable computer that might exist in the future.
ytk, Jun 13 2012
  

       Well, you two'll have to go into a dark room and see what develops.   

       //Basically, by using more colors, you're turning it into an analog system.   

       Goats have variance in fur colour, dots. patterns etc. They even have self-rebooting ones in the sub-breed, the fainting goats. See very strange link,   

       Well, the link itself is perfectly standard, but the goats themselves are a bit..differently normal.
not_morrison_rm, Jun 14 2012
  

       There was the ICI Creo optical tape drive from the early 1990s. It had a 1 TB capacity, but with only a SCSI-1 interface, it would take about 3 days to fill one tape.
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Jun 14 2012
  

       //it would take about 3 days to fill one tape.   

       Quicker to take the tape out and do the zeros and ones yourself. If you wanted the lazy way, just do the ones.
not_morrison_rm, Jun 14 2012
  

       Speaking of underdeveloped, where's [Ubie]?
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 14 2012
  

       Don't be negative [Max]
AusCan531, Jun 14 2012
  

       You're right. I should f-stop, though I'm tempted to stick a finger aperture friend [Ubie]. Also, this topic lens itself to puns.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 14 2012
  

       Did you draw the pentagram with half-baked cheesecake, I always forget that bit.
not_morrison_rm, Jun 15 2012
  

       //Ilford. Ilford. Ilford. //   

       Try 'Pod'
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 15 2012
  

       An optional attachment allows you to store the data in punchcard format on stiff plastic tape. Less data, but longer storage duration. What would we guess, 500+ years?
not_only_but_also, Jun 16 2012
  

       Eh, not sure we'd offer that. Screw my great great great great great great great grandkids. What have they ever done for me?   

       Although that being said, it /would/ be useful for certain applications. Like archiving embarrassing photographs of your enemies. You could send them a picture of the backup tape, and they'd have to live the rest of their lives with the knowledge that the picture of them passed out in a pool of their own vomit with their pants around their ankles ain't NEVER going away.
ytk, Jun 16 2012
  
      
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