We can all have a good chuckle about ‘computers‘ back during their conception. Mammoth machines filling an entire room just to accomplish a few simple computations. Today, processors, hard drives, all computer components seem to relentlessly get faster and smaller. So where will it end? Is there a size limit to information?
No, it doesn’t seem so. The current method of information storage is binary, 1’s and 0’s. Strings of these two digits are constantly read by the computer’s components. Each number string tells the switches within the component to turn either on or off thereby controlling the status of the component. One string might tell your speakers to get quieter, another string may be telling your monitor to display an ‘R’. To store this information, you need to have a place to lay many many strings of 1’s and 0’s. This is done on anything like hard drives, memory sticks, and dvd’s. The way the string of numbers is stored is by having tiny little switches in sequence on the storage device. Each switch is either on or off; on being a 1. and off being the 0. When data is stored, the switches are ‘written’ to display the sequence of numbers. When ‘read’, the sequence of numbers is re-created from the arrangement of the switches. The reason information storage keeps getting smaller is because they keep finding ways to cram these little switches closer and closer together.
But there seems to be a cap on this. For one, binary is pretty limited. Each switch is only able to convey a very simple message: on or off. Suppose each switch were to have three possible states, or five, or twelve. Certainly a switch with more states could convey more information. Binary works by positively or negatively charging switches. Those are the two states that make up its on or off, so how would we go about having considerably more possible states for our switch?
Its been suggested that the orbits of electrons around protons in atoms could be used as a new type of switch- remember chemistry? . . ..The idea of reading and writing info to the switch would remain the same. Imagine your computer keeps a real keen clock and microscope following an atom its using for information storage- this is your read device, like a hard drive’s laser. With write devices today, electrical pulses are sent to manipulate the states of the switches, this type of thing could also be done to write info onto the atom. The whole process would be fairly similar; a write device sends a message in to set the switch and a read device sends out the same message by looking at the state of the switch.
Unlike todays binary methods, storage of information on these atomic orbits seems limitless. The electrons are moving along a sphere. There are an infinite amount of locations on a sphere. With binary storage, it is much more difficult to envision how we could store info at smaller than atomic sizes. Sure, an atom itself might be able to have two states, but for the same size we could have an infinite amount of states if we go the spherical electron orbit method.
With a limited switch, like in binary, you are always forced to find new physical items which can be switched on and off- if you want to go smaller. We never get more out of our switches, we only find ways to cram them closer together. Once the switch itself is infinite, there is no need to pack switches closer together– through refinement or our ‘read/write’ we can hold increasingly complex information within each switch.
This is of course way way off in the future, we’re not even close. Besides, remember all the hoopla about getting computers switched over to 4 digit years? Imagine that times a billion for scrapping 1’s and 0’s. . . ..Binary doesn’t even have a deadline!