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Abideen claims to have placed a 45 second video clip on a single sheet of paper, with the possibility of up to 450GB on the horizon - Image courtesy Arab News
Rainbow technology still in the works but holds promise

According to a report from the Arab News, a university technology student named Sainul Abideen has invented a method of storing massive amounts of digital data on a plain piece of paper that he claims could store many times the capacity of the best Blu-ray or HD-DVD discs. In fact, Abideen says that his Rainbow technology can enable him to store from 90 to 450GB on a piece of paper. As far as a real life demonstration of a 450GB paper goes, the technology still needs development.

Abideen, who hails from the Kerala, India, claims that that his Rainbow system is better than a binary storage because instead of using ones and zeros to represent data, Abideen uses geometric shapes such as squares and hexagons to represent data patterns. Color is also used in the system to represent other data elements. According to Abideen, all that's required to read the Rainbow prints is a scanner and specialized software.

The reporter at Arab News claims to have seen 450 pages of fully printed foolscap being stored on a 4-square inch piece of Rainbow paper. The reporter also claimed that he was shown a 45-second video clip that was stored using the Rainbow system on a plain piece of paper. Interestingly, 45-seconds of video isn't a lot, and if the Rainbow system can store up to 450GB, then we need to be watching full length high-definition videos from a piece of paper.

One of the major advantages of the Rainbow system is the fact that it should cost a lot less to produce than typical polycarbonate DVD and CD discs. Abideen claims that huge databanks can be constructed out of Rainbow-based storage mediums. Although the main attraction is cheap paper right now, other media can use the Rainbow system too.

As of right now, Abideen's system is still under research at the Muslim Educational Society Engineering College and although no major companies have expressed interest, Abideen is confident of the system's future. According to the report, Aibdeen is hard at work at developing a Rainbow scanner that would be small enough for integration into notebook computers. If developed, a Rainbow printer will likely be next up.

In other high-capacity storage news, DailyTech previously reported that Hitachi-Maxell is in the progress of producing holographic media for shipment this year. Holographic storage is one of the biggest forward-looking storage technologies and holds a great deal of promise -- as well as data.

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By DigitalFreak on 11/24/2006 3:57:56 PM , Rating: -1
*cough* bullshit *cough*

RE: Sure
By Gunter on 11/24/06, Rating: -1
RE: Sure
By ponytrack on 11/25/2006 11:07:17 AM , Rating: 5
Think about it like this, in binary there are only two characters 0 and 1, but if you convert that using software to shapes, and those shapes in different colors, if you use three shapes and 6 colors, already you have 18 characters plus a blank character. Then compare 2^10 (binary) and 19^10 (rainbow) and thats how many bits of information each would have with equivalent space.

RE: Sure
By PrinceGaz on 11/25/06, Rating: 0
RE: Sure
By Shining Arcanine on 11/25/2006 12:18:20 PM , Rating: 2
PrinceGaz, your calculations are incorrect. The amount of data any amount of bits can hold is 2^n. For example, with two bits, you can have 4 different combinations of data (i.e. 00, 01, 10, 11) and 2^2 = 4. Your 2 x 10^n formula predicts 200 different pieces of information for two bits, which is wrong as there are only four different ways that you can utilize two bits.

Can you find any other combinations that two bits can form other than 00, 01, 10 and 11? If you cannot, then it stands to reason that the formula for a base-19 encoding scheme would be 19^n.

RE: Sure
By robbie1687 on 11/25/2006 12:25:38 PM , Rating: 2
In fact I fail to see how storing the information as coloured shapes could possibly have a higher data-density than simply using coloured dots...

You're right, it doesn't. The data capacity is the number of bits. The fact that the bits can be viewed in different ways (as composing symbols) is irrelevant.

Think of it this way. Eight bits can be permuted in 256 ways. That's why a byte (which is made of 8 bits) has 256 possible values.

Now we can think of a byte as a hex number. Or we can think of a byte as a color. Or we can think of a byte as a code for "circle", "square", "triangle", etc. But no matter how we think of that byte, it still contains only 8 bits, and it still can encode only 256 possibilities.

RE: Sure
By aGreenAgent on 11/29/06, Rating: 0
RE: Sure
By player x on 11/25/06, Rating: 0
RE: Sure
By 9nails on 11/27/2006 11:35:44 PM , Rating: 2
This logic has one flaw - mechanically, you can't print on the edge of the paper where you hold the most data. Also, printers don't print single shades of colors, they print in single color dots that "look" like a shade of colors if they are gapped on white paper. This means that you have to calculate the color for a larger region of paper, lowering your data density. Perhaps paper or laser printing will never be the solution to data storage.

RE: Sure
By Alpha4 on 12/1/2006 2:51:48 AM , Rating: 2
I do not think the first two posts deserve to be shunned so quickly.

I'm sure Digital Freak & Gunter both understand that on a theoretical level that one could conceivably fabricate a storage medium like this which can store 450GB of data, but based on how little the technology has progressed according to this article, 450GB seems to be an extremely unrealistic projection.

I choose to think of the inventor's over-eager prediction as tasteless hype.

RE: Sure
By Russell on 11/24/2006 4:12:09 PM , Rating: 2
If you actually read how it works you'd have seen that it makes perfect sense.

I'm not saying it's practical, but it sounds pretty possible to me.

RE: Sure
By TomZ on 11/24/06, Rating: 0
RE: Sure
By Russell on 11/24/06, Rating: -1
RE: Sure
By Shining Arcanine on 11/25/2006 12:24:06 PM , Rating: 2
If you were to have 1 cm^2 blocks on a piece of paper, with each one either being there or not, each one would represent a bit. Now, imagine the same encoding scheme, except with different colors and shapes either being there or not being there.

With this scheme, you can theoretically store an infinitely greater amount of information in the same area that you would have a single bit, but as the data density rises, reading it becomes more and more complex, and eventually, it becomes absurdly difficult to discern between one symbol and another, especially as the wavelengths of each color rises and the number of sides on the polygons increase. However, it is possible. The Chinese have hundreds of thousands of different characters and they are able to read them without much a problem, although learning to use them is extremely difficult.

If this scheme is adopted for data storage, it will only be used for short term read-only data storage, as the colors will fade with time and it is impossible to rewrite to such a medium.

RE: Sure
By Jaylllo on 11/25/2006 2:42:43 PM , Rating: 2
It's kinda funny. This idea seems like a beefed up cellular automata.

I really wonder if it is even feasible in terms of speed. CA is considered a "junk"/"turing tarpit"
Any experts on Theory of Computation here?

Also, Chinese doens't have hundreds of thousands of characters. That's nonsense.

Of meaningful words ~20,000.
Actually used ~12,000
Academic level is supposedly 7-9,000
Literacy is about 3,000.

Learning any language takes a lot of time. If you think Chinese is "hard" try Hindi... Anyway, Linguists say all languages are equal in terms of information exchange. Chinese doesn't have tenses, English doesn't incorporate mood into conjugation unlike Spanish.

Different paradigms, different trade offs. All the same.

RE: Sure
By Daigain on 11/25/2006 6:15:32 PM , Rating: 2
Actully there was some guy who wasted his whole life writing down all the Chinese symbols that he could find, If i remember correctly he got up to about 250.000(twohundredandfiftytousand) symbols.

RE: Sure
By AnnihilatorX on 11/26/2006 8:18:24 AM , Rating: 2
Jaylllo I stronly believe the figure you quoted is the number of Chinese characters used by Japanese (as Kanji known by them)

7-9000 is number of kanji requried to be learnt in the Japanese syllabus.
Of course the Japanese uses a mix of kanji and Hiragana (and Katakana) in thier writing system. Chinese however consists entirely of characters. We would therefore use much more in everyday usage

RE: Sure
By Daigain on 11/26/2006 6:33:41 PM , Rating: 2
Japanese people learn about 2000 Kanji's in School. And Chinese people about 5000.

But you cant just look at the numbers japanese Kanji's often have more then one way to be read.

RE: Sure
By rushfan2006 on 12/1/2006 12:39:27 PM , Rating: 2
Couldn't agree more on this one.

I think its bunk....not to mention I'm still trying to think of the value of it. Like even for argument's sake pretending you really CAN store 450 gigs on a plain piece of paper...the ONLY advantage I can see off the top of my head would be cost savings (because paper is pretty cheap).

Also I'm keeping in mind other technologies in the works...damn I wish I remembered the specifics of the one that really interests me -- there is one group (I think it may be MIT even) that is aiming to store something like 1 TERAbyte in a space no bigger than a postage stamp.

I'm much more interested in that than this paper stuff....

Paper after all is very very easily damaged, torn, ripped, ruined, folded, etc. etc.

Anyway it doesn't much matter becuase I think its BS.

RE: Sure
By feelingshorter on 11/24/2006 5:57:39 PM , Rating: 2
I think this is BS also. Now that i think about it, you can only compress an imagine so far. To be able to put 450gigs or 95 full 4.7 gig dvds on a piece of paper is laughable. Lets say you are storing 95 full 4.7 gig movie DVDs. I can only imagine that it is impossible to find a pattern to which you can create a logarithm to compress 450 gigs on a single piece of paper. Sure this is taking into account that the shapes will also be colored, but DVD movies are also in color. To say that you can store 450 gigs worth of...say movies... on a piece of paper...

I'm just saying 450gigs on a regular sheet of paper is BS. Maby somewhere along the lines of 10-40 gigs more like it. For 450 gigs to happen, it will be a special factory made "paper size" material that wont be made of paper. In the future of course. Even then, you can only compress an image file so much.

What if it was 450 gigs worth of JPEG files? To say that you are going to use shapes/colors to replicate the image in a digital format on a piece of paper....hell you mind as well just print the image out. Maby someone has a 450 gig picture that they print out on a piece of paper. Hows that for 450 gigs worth of information?

RE: Sure
By psychobriggsy on 11/25/2006 7:51:54 AM , Rating: 2
Whilst I agree that the 450GB aspect is nonsense right now, and even 1GB seems preposterous (and why use large 'shapes' instead of small shapes for binary representation?), I take issue with your claim that printing the image would be better, especially in the case of video.

JPEG and digital video (e.g., H264) are heavily compressed to fractions of their decompressed size.

How much? Lets take a 720P 10mbps video stream. A single frame (1280x720, 24-bit colour) takes up 2700KB of data. A second (60fps) is therefore 158MB of data, or 1266mbps. Yet the stream is 10mbps! The compressed file is under 1% the size of the decompressed file.

Quite clearly storing the compressed file is better than printing out the images from each frame of the video, even if the encoding used is bulkier.

RE: Sure
By rmaharaj on 11/24/06, Rating: 0
RE: Sure
By Lazarus Dark on 11/24/2006 7:57:39 PM , Rating: 4
Though I don't see paper as the way to go here due to durability issues, I long ago thought that holographic storage would benefit from using a type of visual language like the shapes described here to store larger amounts of data in a smaller space. dammit, I knew I shouldof patented that.

RE: Sure
By robbie1687 on 11/25/2006 11:27:02 AM , Rating: 2
Two mistakes keep cropping up in this thread. First, the fact that dots are combined into symbols has nothing to do with the amount of information that can be encoded. Second, this "invention" has nothing to do with compression. It has to do with storage capacity. (One way of thinking about the second issue is to assume the data was previously compressed as much as possible.)

As with all digital data, the amount that can be stored by this technology can be measured in bits. This is independent of whether the bits are arranged in symbols or hex numbers or anything else. In this case the maximum number of bits is the number of dots that can be both printed AND read accurately by the scanner, multiplied by the number of possible colors for each dot, minus some factor that has to be reserved for error correction.

To estimate the maximum amount of data that could be encoded, let's assume (very liberally) that the maximum number of dots per inch that can be printed AND read accurately by the scanner is 4000 dots per inch. (This is an extremely generous estimate because even though scanners can measure 4000 points per inch, the points won't usually line up with the dots). And let's assume that the printer can print a dot in 6 possible colors (including white as a color). And let's assume that the printed area is 8 " x 10.5". Then the maximum number of bits on the page (aside from error correction) is:

16 mllion bits per square inch x 84 square inches x 6 colors = 8.065 billion bits = 1 billion bytes

So the maximum data capacity, even before we subtract a chunk for error correction, is less than one gigabyte.

But in fact the real capacity would be less because the scanner won't be in alignment with the dots. Think of a the read/write head of a hard disk. It prints exactly like a printer, except that the dots have only two colors (magnetized and de-magnetized). And it reads dots just like the scanner. Except the hard disk has a single read/write head that is designed to stay in alignment with the dots on the disk. The scanner will not be in alignment with the dots on the page. Therefore the actual density of dots that can be successfuly read by the scanner will be lower than what I just assumed in the calculation.

RE: Sure
By vorgusa on 11/27/2006 10:32:40 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah they would have to make a bigger dot to guarantee that the scanner would be able to read every bit of information correctly, and this is assuming that once you get to the size that is required to get 450Gb you would probably start having problems with distortion of the paper, since it obviously will start getting bumpy or porous zoomed in that much. and I would assume that touching the paper in any way would probably ruin the information with the oils on your skin. I would assume that there would be better ways of storing information then on paper

RE: Sure
By Motley on 11/28/2006 5:10:56 AM , Rating: 3
The math is fine.

First, notice he said you needed a scanner. He also says he'd need to develop a rainbow printer as well, you can't just use off the shelf $80 ink jets. The article, if you read it... He stored a 45-second video clip... And in the FUTURE, using the tech you may be able to store between 90 and 450GB of data.

Given a standard piece of paper (Of which the article doesn't even say it's that small), but let's just start with that. Today's scanners can do 48+ bit color scanning, and over 4000dpi.

8.5*11*48*4000*4000=71,808,000,000 bits of information. Or almost 9GB. Toss in some compression (ZIP-type lossless) which CAN compress some data to 1% of it's original size, and you have a theoretical data storage capacity of 900GB on a page. Add some error correction, and some fancy way of allowing the system to detect minor skews, and it's possible to store 450GB of data on a piece of paper TODAY.

Of course that 1:100 compression ration with ZIP-type compression isn't common, but that's not what the article said. In fact the guy didn't even claim he could do 450GB today. He said he did a 45-second video clip. I can store a 45-second video clip in my phone, and it'll take all of about 100k. It looks like total crap, but it is 45-second of video.

Not really BS, just not very useful.

RE: Sure
By s12033722 on 11/28/2006 8:19:50 PM , Rating: 2
What you are missing is that those "48+ bit" scanners are DIGITIZING to 48 bits, but do not in fact have 48 bits of meaningful information. The signal to noise ratio of those scanners is typically around 512 to 1 (or 8 bits per color for true 32 bit color) for a good unit.

RE: Sure
By poohbear on 12/1/2006 1:21:39 PM , Rating: 2
"the person saying it cant be done shouldnt be interupting the person doing it."

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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