Microsoft is working to build a Global Music Vault to preserve music for over 10,000 years. The vault is located in the same cold store that houses the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which stores duplicates of 1,145,693 seed varieties from almost every country in the world.
Called Project Silica, the music storage unit involves a glass hard drive that functions like a CD and can hold up to 100 GB of digital data, or around 20,000 songs. Quartz glass has a symmetrical molecular structure, which makes it more resistant to high temperatures and pressures.
“Here, master music files and irreplaceable music data must be kept in music capsules, protected in the vault, and stored for eternity,” says the Elire Group, which oversees the vault, which works with Microsoft. to test the new, glass-based storage system to store music for thousands of years.
The company is testing a glass-based storage system, which can preserve music beyond the life of vinyl – which can last up to 100 years in good condition – cassettes, which can last 10 years, CDs, which last 15 years, and computer hard drives, which have a shorter lifespan of five years.
Using a femtosecond laser, which can fire for a quadrillionth of a second, Microsoft etches information as 3D patterns into the glass. Once the data is stored, another laser reads the quartz while machine learning algorithms translate the pattern into music, movies or other digital information.
“The goal is to be able to store cloud-scale archiving and preservation data in glass,” said Ant Rowstrong, engineer and deputy lab director at Microsoft Research in Cambridge.
The fragility of some of music’s most archaic mediums was evident in 2008 when a fire at Universal Studios Hollywood destroyed nearly 175,000 master recordings for UMG artists.
Photos: Luca Bracali / Visit Norway