Microsoft successfully archives ‘Superman’ on its Project Silica glass storage medium

Microsoft might be far more renowned for its work on software – and perhaps, thanks to the more recent addition of the Surface lineup – its hardware, but one of the company’s longest-running experiments has surrounded the use and storage of digital memories.

Previously, the Redmond firm successfully archived media in human DNA as part of an attempt to create a long-lasting storage medium. Now, the company has announced that it has officially archived Warner Brothers’ 1978 film Superman on a new medium – glass storage – under the banner of its Project Silica initiative.

As the company cites, Hollywood movies are traditionally archived in celluloid, which is both flammable and is prone to decay. In a bid to seek digital preservation, the firm has now turned to glass squares measuring in at 7.5 cm x 7.5 cm x 2 mm, that can hold 75.6 GB of data.

While that might sound somewhat small when compared to the 1TB optical and solid-state drives most of us are used to, Microsoft aims to expand the storage capacity of its new medium over time. As the company itself reminds us, the intent of the initiative is to create a durable storage medium, rather than a high-capacity one.

The squares themselves are subjected to lasers, which burn shapes known as voxels into their glass composition. Voxels hold multiple information points (somewhat similar to how the pits and lands of an optical disk record either a zero or one). The cube itself is comprised of some 74 layers, which are accessed and interpreted by shining light through the glass and analysing their reflections.

Microsoft’s Project Silica squares have been revealed to have survived being banked in an oven, taking a dive into boiling water, being heated in microwaves, and even withstanding scratches from steel wool.

The bid to record ‘Superman’ onto a square is the first step to the project’s success, and it remains to be seen whether Warner Brothers (or other film studios) might be open to Microsoft’s new storage medium.