Patterned media, or PM, is set to replace the perpendicular recording method used in modern hard drives and will eventually make them bigger than ever.

The technique has been mooted before, but a practical way of creating PM-based disks has only just been developed. Japanese firm Crestec claims it has come up with a machine that can create the raw materials for PM hard drives with four times the capacity as comparable perpendicular drives.

Electron beam built

Crestec's PM cutter uses physical patterns created by an electron beam in a hard drive platter to isolate the magnetic bits that hold data. This avoids the problem of interference rendering the data unreadable.

Also, the PM technique uses a single grain of magnetised material per bit of storage, compared to the several hundred grains per bit in current drives.

Considering that the best hard drives now have data densities of around 250Gbits (Gigabits) per square inch, the PM density of a full Tbit (Terabit) in the same space will allow for 1TB (Terabyte) laptop hard drives far sooner than predicted.

By the same token, PM drives could bring us half-TB Apple iPods and desktop PC hard drives with 5+TB as a matter of routine. Perfect for ripping all those Blu-ray disks, eh?