This is a fascinating story from India where getting training in high-tech is becoming the national pastime.

Data Can Now Be Stored on Paper

Is it time to say goodbye to CDs, DVDs, Zip drives?

A Kerala student has developed a technique for portable data whereby the data can now be stored on ordinary paper. And to boot, larger amounts of data can be had on lesser space.

The immediate question that pops into the mind is how to retrieve the data. Will it be as easy as feeding a floppy disc or CD into the drive and having it on the monitor? Perhaps it will be much easier than that. The piece of paper or even plastic sheet storing the data has only to be scanned in the scanner and read over the monitor. So wait, scan drive would be part of your computer.
[…]
Sainul, who has just turned 24, says that instead of using zeros and ones for computing, he used geometric shapes such as circles, squares and triangles for computing which combine with various colors and preserve the data in images. An RVD therefore looks like a printout of modern art.

Damn, does this sound like a hot new technology or what? Time to get in on the ground floor. Only problem is it’s as bogus as the tittas on Shyanne at the strip club down the street.

Scam of Indian student developing technology to store 450 GB of data on a sheet of paper

This shows how technically illiterate the news reporters are.. The idea of storing something in paper is good, but trusting someone blindly when they say they are showing a movie from a piece of paper is absolutely naive. For people who still believes such stories, please try to find answers for these fundamental questions.

* How did he make his paper disk?, though the reporter missed to ask this question directly, it seems he used some sort of printer (laser or inkjet). So if we take the best printer available and try to print a digital photo with such a high resolution so that its size is 450 GB, will you be able to print that with out loosing its resolution?

* Even if a printer is able print at that high resolution, the paper is made of fibre which has uneven surface, think about your CD or DVD being rough like paper, will the drives read it. When you want to store such a huge amount of data, even micron level of difference do matter a lot.

* Some people where suggesting by using different colours one can squeeze in more data, but what about error tolerance then? This guy is questioning the fundamental reason why digital / binary technology became popular, its because its either 0 or 1 , so its mostly fool proof, we could have used different voltages and instead of binary, use 0 1 2 3 4, but then it will not be fool proof.

You would think by now it would be a requirement that tech writers know something about tech to report on it. But even beyond that, given how much play this story has gotten over a week one would have thought that it would have been blasted before this. [suckup] Makes you appreciate the knowledge and experience of someone like John all the more! [/suckup]



  1. Smartalix says:

    Two words: Cauzin Softstrip.

  2. Jägermeister says:

    If it was 1999/2000, Silicon Valley and you told some venture capitalist that you could transfer 450 GB of data between computers over Sneakernet, faster and more secure than any other technology at the time… $1B in seed capital… no questions asked.

  3. Ori says:

    I specially “like” this comment: “the fundamental reason why digital / binary technology became popular, its because its either 0 or 1 so its mostly fool proof, we could have used different voltages and instead of binary, use 0 1 2 3 4, but then it will not be fool proof.”

    Its like that stupid statement of the head of patents office who said 20 years ago that everything that could have been invented was already invented……(!)

    Give the guy a break maybe he has got something new indeed!

  4. Uncle Dave says:

    #1: Back in the 80’s there was this scanner thing that was sent out free to subscribers of Byte and a few other magazines. It was shaped like a animal(!) and was to be used to scan codes in ads in the mags so you could get more information. It cost a fortune to produce and mail out in AOL disk quantities. The tech was clever for the time, but no one obviously gave a thought how stupid the concept was.

  5. Mark Derail says:

    If you look at the picture, it’s much bigger than 1 sheet. So the 450g, even if spread unto 100 sheets of paper is still quite good.
    Paper can be made to withstand time better than DVD’s and is cheap & easy to produce.

    Now, does it have merit? It sure does! He’s using geometry, which means data redundancy. If you know two angles of a triangle you can infer the third. If you know the lengths of two sides of a triange and one angle, you can infer the rest of the triangle. Even easier with squares.

    Data storage? Let’s go with a triangle printed on paper with current inkets.

    In a 10×10 pixel grid, an equalateral triangle of, two sides 10 pixels, one angle is 90, two of 45. You can fit two triangles in there.

    How much information?
    1. The color
    2. Length of side 1
    3. Length of side 2
    4. Length of side 3
    5. Angle 1
    6. Angle 2
    7. Angle 3
    8. Border thickness

    Times two, because two fit in a 10×10 pixel square. 16 bits.

    Then, the square itself! Four angles, four sides, it’s color. Another 10 bits.

    Not counting the wasted space inside our square + two triangles.

    26 bits, plus a whole lot of redudancy built in thanks to geometry.

    In a 10×10 pixel grid. Now, just how big is that when you print at 1200dpi? How many 10×10 grids in 1200x1200dpi for one square inch?

    I’ll save you the math, 14,000 grids x 26 bits, divided by 1024 gives us 365k. For one inch!

    Assuming we don’t print around the borders, in 8×10 inches, we can then infer 365k times 80, so that’s 29 megabits.

    29 megabits / 8 for ASCII storage, gives us 3.6 Megabytes.

    So one sheet of paper could easily hold 2.5x floppy 3.5″ disks of binary data instead of text.

    With spare room. With data redundancy. With only 15 minutes of my time to think about it.

    Now take a grad student that this is his Thesis and he spent many months perfecting. I’m sure he could quadruple my results.

    So assuming instead of 3.6 megs per page, it’s really 10 megs per page, it’s still 100 pages for one gig. I’m curious as to how he gets better results, 10×10 grid on 1200dpi is extremely tiny for paper, and most scanners are limited to 1200dpi.

    Now I don’t consider compression, because you would compress into a ZIP file before printing your binary in the first place, to save trees right?

    Any one of my database tables that’s over 1gig is size compresses to 100megs at max Zip compression. Hopefully this Indian dude is talking uncompressed True numbers.

    Now, a paper backup of my database, pasted on my office walls, would give it a nice Matrix feel to it.

  6. Peter Rodwell says:

    I remember some sort of paper storage device back in the 1980s, when I was editing a computer magazine. If my (notororiously unreliable) memory is correct, it consisted of printed strips that could be read with a special scanner and software. It didn’t last long.

    Regarding journalists’ computing knowledge (or lack thereof), it is my personal experience that it’s usually far easier to teach journalists about computers than it is to teach computer people to write correctly. Of course, if nobody bothers to teach the journalists, or if they can’t be bothered to learn, the result is obvious.

  7. Stu Mulne says:

    Peter:

    I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of the Cauzin gadget. Basically a bar code scheme. I never got into it.

    The “Cue Cat” is the “animal” gadget. Might have one here if the kid didn’t toss it. IMHO, and idea who’s time hadn’t quite come yet. At the time, having a PC handy while reading the magazine was a little bit unlikely, so grabbing your Cue Cat when seeing an ad was kind of iffy. My daughter thought it was cute, but never even let me install it….

    My only “complaint” on this kid’s “breakthrough” is the convenience factor of placing a sheet of paper into a scanner v.s. stuffing a CD or DVD into a player, and the archival issues of how to save a sheet…. Or the ink issues…. If we were still passing around small programs (or program snippets) the way the magazines did way back when, it might be useful since everybody’s got a scanner, but you hardly ever see any code in a magazine, and certainly none that’s long enough to want to scan in v.s. type that’s not available on a web site of some sort. That killed the Cauzin device….

    Regards,

    Stu.

  8. chuanz says:

    @ Mark Derail

    2. Length of side 1
    3. Length of side 2
    4. Length of side 3
    5. Angle 1
    6. Angle 2
    7. Angle 3

    In a triangle, length of (arbitary) side 3 is a function of side 1 & 2 and angle 1. You have actually three useful “bits” instead of six, since the rest are dependent variables.

    Also, to store 26bits in a 10×10 square is a waste because each monochromic pixel is itself already capable of representing 1 bit and you can actually store 100bits of on a 10×10.

    I’d spend my 15 mins elsewhere.

  9. jbellies says:

    #1 #4 #6 bar-code scanner to input the source code of monthly programming utilities without having to retype. But bar code readers never became standard devices (too expensive?) on your home PC. I wonder if an optical mouse could double as a bar code reader … it’s an obvious idea, but probably somebody’s been granted a patent on it. Oops, OT.

  10. Uncle Dave says:

    Cue Cat! That was it. And it was Wired, not Byte. And it was only 2000, not in the 80’s. I guess it was such a bad idea that my mind pushed it into the far past to get away from it. I wish I hadn’t thrown mine out. There are a bunch of hacks on the web on how to use it for other things.

  11. sirfelix says:

    Mark Derail, I can add two features to your calculations that would multiply the same space by 1000 or more.

    1. The use of matrix methods inside of a matrix. Your 10×10 grid can be one component of another 10×10 grid and so on.

    2. In 1988, I was approached by a company to create holograms of several bar codes in one space. Although possible in theory, the technology was a few years behind the idea of creating 3D bar codes.
    For example, you could take a hologram of a USPS postage grid, rotate the media a fraction (as small as two wavelengths of light) and take another hologram of a different grid. The limitations came with the resolution of the media. So in your 10×10 grid case, your grid could change with every degree of rotation.

    PS: If the holograms are produced with monochrome light sources then theoretically you could record different images based off wavelength. I’d call this 4D, but we are getting deeper then I want to go here.

  12. V says:

    Bad idea to begin with. Ink soaks into paper, it’s actually very fuzzy when you look at it on that scale. Not to mention that paper is easily wrinkled, dented, and so on and so forth. Even if this story is true, I’d consider the technology too unreliable to trust with my data. We’d be back to the good old days when file corruption was common.

    Now, if it were a plastic disc that we were etching data onto…wait, that has another name.

  13. tallwookie says:

    Should have used clay tablets

  14. ECA says:

    Come on, and THINK alittle.
    They are looking at Holographic storage NOW, and for the last 10+ years.

    Reason for 0,1 was the media selection. Magnets can Easily tell, +,- from each other…
    When we can store a “alphanumeric” code and READ it as fast as an HD, we will gain about 8-32 times MORE speed. But that will require Laser tech, not Magnetic media.
    The problems come with Durability of media, being able to write, rewrite to it, and do it Over 100,000,000,000 times without damaging the media.

  15. Angel H. Wong says:

    Where the hell are the MIT students?

  16. Currying On says:


    This silliness is what happens when we outsource scams.

  17. jtoso says:

    #5. Very informative.

    I would not mind India tech, but all the natives I have talked to over the damn customer support lines are self righteous pricks who speak in such a way that you can’t get a word in edgewise. Bring on the flames.

  18. OmarTheAlien says:

    After the first math post my eyes glazed, but now, recovering, I can only think that the Dead Sea Scrolls preserved their data for an awfully long time, and although we are due for the next big breakthrough, it’s completely possible that no one has the foggiest of what the tech will look like.

  19. sirfelix says:

    Da Vinci designed machinery that no one could even fathom. The idea of a flying machine was ignored for 500 years before anyone attempted to build one. Same with clocks. It amazes me the amount of obvious discoveries that are revealed by the most common folk.

  20. Olo Baggins of Bywater says:

    Most printing on a press is 2540 dpi, and the ink bleed is easy to accomodate.


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