Student Develops Paper Capable of 450GB of Storage

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 up 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 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.

News source: DailyTech

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I don't get it. A full scale page, as it was used, if stored in a lossless 8bit bitmap file on the computer, would still occupy much lesser space that the information its containing? I mean, I'm looking here beyond the medium (paper) and more from a data encoding(compression) point of view.

Lets eliminate the paper for a second, and use the same method to encode the data in a bitmap file. Considering the size of the paper is a fullscape, it shouldn't be more than a few MB, right? I mean, even if you consider a 1600x1200 bmp, the size should be well within 10 MB. So using this encoding technique, we could be storing about 450 GB in less than 10 MB!?

Well personally I dont see a problem in principle of storage of data on paper how ever it will never be properly implemented because:

Essentually all computers work off binary (1s and 0s) if a charge exists it is 1 otherwise it is 0. In the early days of computing a lot of research was put into attempting to use demical systems (base 10). The number was decided based on a scale of the voltage being passed across it. Unfortunately the maths geeks couldn't work out how to make it work anywhere near as effectively as binary with the functionality provided to them by electrical engineers. Calculations could therefore be done by the maths geeks allowing programming. Today all storage be it long-term like cds or hard drive or short term like memory stores data as 1s or 0s because it requires no conversition which would require a massive overhead in processing power to convert it for use on the computer.

I also reckon our proven technology that can fit 200GB into a piece of A4 with a lot of space around the edges will be developed further before paper based technologies can catch up.

That said it is good to science being done for no real purpose as it has a tendancy to through up random discovers and ideas no one would ever have come up with.

I can't take anything from Arab News as being legit... especially this. Honestly, why shapes? I would think using color coded dots and dashes would be far smaller and able to put more information in. Maybe that's my proof of concept. COLOR CODED DOTS AND DASHES FOR 1TB ON A PIECE OF PAPER.

hmm, surely for this paper system to be read by current computers, a lot of processing power would have to be used to translate it into binary? i could create a paper system where a smiley face represented a dvd image of vista (or the binary string which represents a dvd image of vista rather), for example, but the computer reading it would still have to translate it to understand it. unless we get CPUs running on this silly system..

You can imagine in a few years

"Noes I just ripped my copy of Halo 4"

and companies selling magical selotape that will repair such rips, basically just normal selotape :P

Total Arabic nonsense. Anyone can claim anything,anytime. On a plain piece of paper,laughable !!
Matbe it only works in Harlem,since it is called Rainbow or Jesse Jackson is the co-inventor.
Rainbow Puch Coalition.

your not thinking broadly enough. you have to compound the info. for example, say you use small squares for each 'piece' of data. if you make it just big enough that you could place 9 of any shape in it, say 27 pixels square, then you have nine seperate locations for storage. then, for example, you used O, X, +, 8, |, and - for shapes, then you can store vaules of up to 531441, or 9^6 in them. then, if you have 8 different colors, say the 8 that a CGA monitor can produce, then you have up to 6.3626854411359423584748287625385e45 ( 9^6^8 ) different combinations in 1 27 pixel by 27 pixel square. This could easily give you a 450 GB max theoretically. however, the more white space you provide to seperate the characters, and the larger you make them, the less space you have. you figure it out.

Sorry you seem to be confused. A 27x27 area would yeild a 729 bit`s of data. Which is far more storage than your example.

This gives you 2^729 possible combinations. Even without colour data. I think you do not have capacity and numerical combinations strait in your head. No hard feelings though.

And I think you do not have English spelling 'straight' in yours! No hard feelings though.

This technology is clearly fake, otherwise we'd all be storing our data as pretty bitmaps with magical compression abilities. With printing, you can't store more information than a 'dot' can hold (the smallest printable element). This has two components, location and colour. If you are to maximise data density the location cannot sensibly encode any data, therefore you're left with colour, which with printing is probably 8 bits at best. Multiply the number of dots (denoted by the resolution) by the bit depth and you have the maximum data density.

For those who believe this technology has magical abilities think of it this way. Firstly assume all the data is entirely random. This would be the case if the data was compressed to its theoretical maximum (Shannon entropy).

Then, if you assume these shapes lie on a 3x3 pixel grid they could, using the above logic, hold 8x9 bits of info, or 72 bits. This equates to 2^72 possible combinations of bits. If you were to use a triangle instead, you start with 3 corners, which in a 3x3 grid equates to 9P3 or 720 unique combinations. If we generously allow these 720 combinations to be represented with 10 bits (10 bits = 1024 combinations) and combine that with the corner colours and the 'fill colour' (although not many triangles will be fillable) you have 10 + 8x4 bits, or 42 bits. Even if you somehow managed to use say, 1000 shapes, that'd still only be 52 bits.

The underlying 72 bits encode every possible 'shape' that can be represented within this 3x3 grid. There is simply no way to encode more data.

Using your example Mik Gee, you have 27x27 pixels with 8 colours. That is 27x27x3 (2^3 = 8 ), or 2187 bits. That is 2^2187 possible combinations. 2^2187 = 2.25e+658 and is a lot bigger than 9^6^8 = 6.36e+45.

This is nonsence. Yes you can store data on paper,but not 450gb. Lets prove it.

max res (optical) of most new scanners
1200x2400 which is 2 880 000 pixels
max colourdepth is 48bit. Or 6 bytes of color info. SO the max amt of data per inch is 17 280 000 bytes. Or 17 megs.

Quote - Kainenable said @ #49
This is nonsence. Yes you can store data on paper,but not 450gb. Lets prove it.

max res (optical) of most new scanners
1200x2400 which is 2 880 000 pixels
max colourdepth is 48bit. Or 6 bytes of color info. SO the max amt of data per inch is 17 280 000 bytes. Or 17 megs.

Which means that to store 450 GB that way you'd need a piece of paper with 26470.588235294117647058823529412 square inches on it, or 735.29411764705882352941176470583 square yards, or approximately 0.4 square miles. Hey, you'd better start buying unused farmland now! You're gonna need it for data storage.

Even if you were just using CGA colors and a few basic geometric shapes, you could do massive compression. Think about how many combinations you could come up with, and then how much "1 and 0" space that could cover. While i agree that 450 GB sounds more like a mathematical limit than a realilistic one, the basic premise is sound. in a way it is similar to just about any sort of compression. for any sort of compression, you are replacing common patterns with a shorter sequence that stands for it. this creates a limit in binary, cause if you replace every sequence, you end up with something just as big. this is why zipping works well on text, but not on EXEs as well, or other zip files, as there is much more randomness in machine code than English text. however, a color Vs. shape Vs. placement combination can convey a LOT more information without having to use the same space. Similar, in a way to a space comparision between a binary string and the same string in hex. 2 characters vs 8 characters to say the same thing.

What you forget is that drawing symbols to represent numbers is NO more efficiant than using binary. This is easy to prove. Take a 2X2 grid and see how many symbols you can draw. 16 right? Using binary how many numbers can be represented, 16 thats right. Sorry to burst your bubble.

How are you using the 2x2 grid but? If your doing a On/Off like it seems you are to get that 16 combinations then all you have done is do binary anyway, just using coloured squares instead of 1's and 0's. The point above was that you could use triagnles, circles, hexagons ect ect each of which are a different colour. The 2x2 grid could therefore hold alot more than simply 16.

I'd imagine there would be some very viable ways to manipulate data using binary encodings too but I'm unsure how it would compare size wise. That said, lets not forget but that a HD holding upwards of a TB has platters that wouldn't equate to alot more (if even) than an A4 piece of paper when each platter was laid flat so yes, you can just do this via binary quite easily.

The 2X2 grid represented scanned pixels at the highest res. Remember, all that all symbols are a series of pixels. Which must differ from each other by at least one pixel.

You might as well use a colored binary method since it will always store more or equal amounts of data. I could write out a formal proof but really cant be buggered. I started with 2X2 matrix but you can substitute in any size.

Think of it as a highbread version of what UPS uses. That funky square barcode. Its basicly the same thing just a bigger version.

-gets frustrated that he just lost everything he just wrote and has to start again-

A lot of you are complaining about the whole "what about light, etc" in regards to fading the printed data, however, when you have important documents and what-have-you, how often do you just leave them sitting outside in the sun? Better yet, on a desk that is exposed to a large amount of sunlight (in your office or study, etc.)? If you have something important then you take care of it, whether or be stored away in a filing cabinet or a safe, or if you need to move it from one place to another, then you take a briefcase -- it helps to keep things tidy, thats why people carry briefcases.

It's common sense people! If you had 450GB worth of data on a single piece of paper, are you just going to throw it in your backpack and take it to a friends place? Don't be rediculous! You'd store it properly and then take it where you need to -- if you even need to take it anywhere at all. For starters, I don't see this as being a form of portable media, I see it as being a great, cheap solution to backing up your harddrives and what-not.

Seriously though, just think about it for two seconds and perhaps your brains will kick in people.

Oh, not to mention the fact that it is very very new and is still being researched, so give the guy a break and offer some support, because its the haters that prevent quicker discoveries.

This is BS. Why store it on paper when they can just save it as a .bmp which will be a maximum of a couple megabytes with absolutely 0 data loss?

I can believe it being just another form of compression, but it cannot be as efficient as they say. Even if it was, it would take years to encode and then to decode the information.

Have people thought about the fact that the paper can be laminated/plastic coated like CDs? And in fact it's more resilient and flexible if coated properly (e.g. plastic-coated money used in some countries)?

Have people thought about the fact that if one piece of paper could hold 450GB, you could hold 45GB on a piece of paper 1/10th of its size, e.g. a laminated or plastic-coated business card as a storage device?

Have people considered that there is more complexity and potential variations possible with colors and shapes than with 1's and 0's?

Or are people doing the usual "It's BS!!" because they can neither understand complex concepts nor have any vision. Or dare I say it because the person involved is an Arab and we all know that all Arabs are terrorists, right...

I love reading comments from the lowest common denominator, because it's great to see that we still have clear line of sight to descendants who used to burn people at the stake for coming up with new ideas

Using colour and shapes instead of 1's and 0's? Thats genius! Then when the data is exposed to sunlight, the colour will fade, and all your data will become unreadable or useless! Hooray for innovation! :w00t:

The theory looks great on paper ... no, really.

But let's cut out the middle-man. Just use the technology to produce a sub-5MB EPS file or of all things a PDF, with all of the little colored shapes in pristine vector quality and have bit-for-bit precision with colors. Then parse the data from that small file and there you go. My 5MB PDF contains ump-teen gigabytes of data. Better yet, encode 10-Gigabytes of 5MB PDF files on to a 5MB PDF.

Oddly enough, the technology makes sense and I see it very feasible fitting significant amounts of data on a sheet of paper using this method. Maybe not 450GB, that sounds more like the "Mathematical Limit" derived from the theory. "Practical Limits" are always much lower and varying.

I think you all fail to see some key floors in this design?? hands up who has ever scratched a disk...?? can you imagine storing paper, totally flat.... no folds rips, tea stains? Come on, this is disaster waiting to happen, isn’t this why magnetic storage was invented, because storing on paper was just to inefficient? And as for the "it doesn’t matter where you store it, it wont have to be paper! You try writing a square to a memory cell without the aid of a 1 or a 0!!

The whole thing is stupid, I agree if we could implement pattern storage into binary we could increase data storage immensely.... e.g. reading whole sets of data that predefines a larger set, or even duel memory cells to allow us to have 0,1,2,3 ... this would make data storage huge in a small space!

But paper, don’t be silly! When someone comes back 2 me with duel reading/writing memory cells allowing for 2,3 in binary, (“we could call it Trinary or would it be Quriary?") I will be impresses/happy!

That’s my 2 cents!


Yes, sounds like bull because it both misses to claim what kind of paper, and also it's strange that paper just happened to be so efficient. In case there's some revolutionary technology at work here, you'd think a more specialized material would be far better. Come again when there's a working prototype; until then it could be a wild theory + an "it could work" argument that's the basis of this story.

Oh my, Lawrence M. Krauss _was_ right when he was talking about scientific illiteracy in this country.

Tell me, if we can "print" 450 Gb of data on a piece of paper, what prevents us from printing the information of another 1000.000 other pieces of paper? ( ~450Kb jpg's )?
Then, our original piece of paper will have 450 x 1000.000 Gbs, and this is just the first level. Those pages could also hold 1000.000 other pages of other data and so on.

From this, I will now extract the answer to the Meaning of Life, right after i go shave my pudel.

Quote - Dirtie said @ #34.1
You can't compress stuff that's already been compressed, at least not using the same method.

Try zipping a zip archive.

We want experiments, not excuses :)
They said 450Gb of data so that's all I'm asking for. They must have got that number somehow, so that's what I want to know.
Simple, don't you think?

Speaking about assigning notions to symbols (someone provided an example before with triangles and circles), let's say you assign all the data stored in a book with the symbol " [_] " (a square), so when a program sees " [_] " it will treat is as the book itself.
But guess what, you'll still have to store the original book somewhere :)
The size of the dictionary will be far, far bigger than the size of the data on the paper. How much bigger? I'd estimate 1000.000 bigger.

Another example given above was that of the Chinese language vs English language. I didn't read anywhere English language was designed with simplicity in mind. If you have other information, please, tell us :)

Hmm, so they say they can store information on paper using symbols, huh?
I think these boys just re-invented WRITING. Yes! ^_^. See? It isn't that hard, with just a little thinking and imagination applied

Quote - ThePitt said @ #33.2
A lot. Could handle more information in less or the same space

Bar codes do not hold information. They merely serve as identifiers. All information (such as product description and price) are stored in a separate database and the bar code only serves as a reference to these data records.

The theory behind it all is pretty basic really but I dont think this will ever have any practical implementation, at least with paper. Papers way too volatile to be used, I suppose you could use cards but even then this system sounds like that to do a rewrite would require a new card...although it may not. It also seems to me something such as this would be extremly processor intensive and slow to read seeing as you have to take that image and reinterpret it back into binary.

The major problem that breaks this technology lies in the use of colors.

if indeed he used a fulle range of colors I believe he could store a fair amount of Data, but I'm still skeptical .

BUT since there is NO such thing as What you See is what you get, when it comes to colors in print and scan, this whole thing fails, as he'd have to fall back on a very few, very basic colors. red, green, blue, yellow, purple, orange, black and white, with maybe a couple more, anythign more and you'd get wrong colors easily. And even then you'd have to have special calibrated scanner readers, and you probably couldn't print them at home, unless you also had speciual calibrated pritner systems for this purpose. and everythign would need to be regularly recalibrated with fresh calibration papers so they colors haven't faded or changed.

Even so, I'm kind of vague on the concept of the data patterns being abel to store more data than a non compressed RGB bitmap. sure it's possible, but I think we're way past the concept of "simple" geometric shapes then

I have found a way to bypass the need for an OS and software altogether! The technology is out and ready to be used.

I call it paper and pen!

Sounds like an interesting reason to further deforest the Amazon Rainforest. =) The computer industry sure isn't doing itself any favours.

the fact that this was demonstrated in a piece of paper doesnt mean it only works in paper...
the point here is the technology used, the way data is encoded, not where.

While the idea isn't bad, It can't use standard paper, printers, and scanners, because simple maths proves it's impossible (say you scan a piece of paper at full resoloution of your home scanner - how big is the file? - not 450GB, therefore that file can't store that much data in that file)

The idea of being able to print on newspaper is fairly ludercrous - current printing systems don't have anywhere near the resoloution needed - you can expect less than 100 dpi for a newspaper, which means an A4 sheet of the stuff is no more than 250kb (presuming black and white)

This doesn't have anything to do with picture quality, its about encoding, binary code currently works with 2 characters (0s and 1s) imagine all the possibilities you could have with all the geometrical shapes and colors we have?, for example a light blue square matched with a red triangle could mean a complete word using just a fraction of the space that a bunch of 1s and 0s would use.

Think of it like how the Chinese language uses strokes to represent individual sounds (I believe, me not being a Chinese speaker). They can write an English sentence in half to a quarter of the space with a few exceptions (sounds not spoken by Chinese, for one).

THAT'S data compression.

Quote - JJ_ said @ #19.3
Sorry to say but your theory is seriously flawed

Mine or the article? 'cause if it's mine I can excuse it

Quote - billyea said @ #19.4

Mine or the article? 'cause if it's mine I can excuse it

i believe he was talking to "Hello1024"

Quote - Hello1024 said @ #19
While the idea isn't bad, It can't use standard paper, printers, and scanners, because simple maths proves it's impossible (say you scan a piece of paper at full resoloution of your home scanner - how big is the file? - not 450GB, therefore that file can't store that much data in that file)

I guess by your logic zip files cannot exist, by simple math!

Remember that optical discs hold information on a thin sheet of foil. The laser reads the holes in the foil. If it didn't have the protective plastic covering it would be probably more susceptible that this paper idea. If it ever gets out of its infancy it would be stored differently.

so we can replace 9 Blu-Ray's with one sheet of paper, but.. now how many sheets of this paper can we have scanned and keep the picture files on a Blu-Ray disc?

and then 9 Blu-Ray's worth of paper pictures can go on another Blu-Ray? that's a lot of pron!

Quote - Soleen said @ #14
Sounds like plain BS to me.

It's actually a very simple idea taken from 3D holographic storage theory. Only he's realized it could be done on paper. HOW it can be saved and read is another question, but it's not a scam at all. Would a reader of this data be that difficult to make? I guess some of you haven't heard of microscopes, it's not that big of a stretch.

This kind of non-binary storage is the future in any case, even if it's not going to be paper, but rather something more expensive that corporations can better profit from and cause as much pollution as possible.

As far as a real life demonstration of a 450GB paper goes, the technology still needs development.

Sounds cool. E-books aren't good enough for me yet to replace books, but when something viable (for me) takes off I can see it. Imagine reading a page, being able to underline a word and find its definition without leaving the book?!

I don't think you read the article. It's about using the piece of paper as something like a disc. In other words you "print out" your data and that's it. You scan it again to upload that data back to a computer. There is no clever ebook potential.

If only there was a practical application for this. If this is truce...its people like him that push the digital envelope and help create new products.

I actually live in a country where they sell the Arab News and i read this while taking my afternoon break i thought it was Extreme BS so i ignored it but wow im suprised people actually take this stuff seriously.

sounds interesting.. but talk abt read and write speed :)... and what if needs to edit data or delete data? just a one bit.. oops I mean just a one squre? defrag.. am sure must be taken care.. but I belive it will decrease writing and reading speed... but lets wait.. sounds really interesting.. I hope it works out great..

If this were even true, it wouldn't be a feasable way to store data due to the Easy way it can be destroyed by light, weather, or any number of factors over a short period of time.

sounds like a lot of bull**** to me :p, for a scanner to read geometric forms that are so small you would need a laser scanner

FYI, Laser printer generally use at best 1200 DPI, color printer use 600. though in the case of HP at least they use the ReT system to make the pritn look like it's many times the DPI, without goign into specifics onhow it works, but it does. (uisually you get the visual of 2400dpi ish)

Ink printers if they're good quality are usually at least 1200 and 24/2800 ish now. they may actually be more, but generally ink, gives better quality than laser actually.

so your assumption that laser automatically is better fails, it is for some things, but not all.

But the point of all this. Scanners have higher resolutions than this now. And being a laser scanner woudln't actually give more resolution as you assume, since you still need optical readers, wich is what actually determines the resolution, NOT what generates the light reflected on them.

Sigh more vaporware hyped to be the next great thing.

PS: I've discovered a way to store 7000 gigs on fingernails but they don't make the readers yet. :P