The busy storage elves at IBM’s Almaden Research Center have crammed almost 7 billion bits — about 800 megabytes — onto a square inch of test tape, a 15x improvement over today’s shipping products. The PR goes on to say:

The demonstration shows that magnetic tape data storage should be able to maintain its cost advantage over other technologies for years to come. When these new technologies and tape become available in products – projected to be in about five years – a cartridge the size of an industry-standard Linear Tape Open (LTO) tape cartridge could hold up to 8 trillion bytes (terabytes) of uncompressed data.

Tape will never go away completely since there will always be applications where cost per bit is 90% of the buying criteria. Yet as backup compression gets built into more products, tape’s economic advantage will continue to decline. Tape vendors will be forced upmarket to support massive data libraries.

In the meantime, congratulations to IBM’s storage elves. Well done!