Ten years, eh? Let me take out my crystal ball. With present day media and technology, and given current trends with respect to magnetic disk area, density growth, we will hit the superparamagnetic effect by 2004. This effectively ends the two trends that have been fueling storage industry growth for the past decade: the annual 100+ percent capacity improvement in hard disk capacity and the annual 50 percent reduction in price per MB. Doomsayers would suggest that it is the end of civilization as we know it.
What could replace the mag disk? Several ideas are on the drawing board: perpendicular recording (planting the magnetic fields of data bits perpendicular to the media so they are less susceptible to superparamagnetism), atomic force microscopy-based storage (superminiature and very high capacity achieved by recording data at the atomic level), holography (1000 copies of Gone With the Wind on a sugarcube, a promise since the Kennedy Administration), Near or Far Field Recording (most experiments have delivered yesterday's capacities tomorrow), or something else yet to be thought of. See my article at Scientific American's Web site, if it is still online, at Scientific American's Web site (http://www.sciam.com/) for a comprehensive overview of the alternatives as of last Summer (it is in their archive for April 2000) for a comprehensive overview of the alternatives as of last Summer. Good luck.
This was first published in April 2001