MICROSOFT HAS launched its first storage unit powered by DNA.
A programme co-organised by the University of Washington was able to translate the word "hello" into DNA strings and store it as a liquid. They were then able to recall the data, making it the first end-to-end implementation of a DNA storage device.
There's a caveat. Isn't there always?
The process took 21 hours to convert 5 bytes of data, meaning it has quite a lot of work to do to compete with MVNe Flash.
Come to think of it, it has a lot of work to do to compete with tape.
Fortunately, the researchers already think they know how to get it down to below 12 hours already, and we're very early in the process.
The reason all this is so exciting is that, if harnessed properly, this could be a game-changer, able to compact an entire data centre down to the size of a USB stick and keep it for aeons without risk of it corrupting or degrading.
Microsoft points out that the DNA of a mammoth's tusks is still readable after tens of thousands of years. A flash drive is generally guaranteed for three to five years.
With the frankly insane rate at which data is being created, finding a more efficient way to store it will be vital to avoid building more giant data centres that guzzle power and take up space (and need lots of maintenance - the DNA process is automatic).
At a time when AI is all the rage, it's an interesting juxtaposition that there's a distinct possibility that the mobile phones of 20 years time might actually have DNA aboard too. We can't help wondering if that will make your phone a cyborg.
That said, don't hold your breath for the Galaxy S10 DNA 5G - right now this process is clunky, slow and expensive. But it's ruddy exciting and could change the game in ways we can't yet imagine. μ
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