Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

EMC Donates Big Storage to a Library Like No Other, the Vatican’s

Storage giant EMC is often the company you call when your digital storage needs are atypical. It’s also a company that prides itself on certain “big thought” projects around the otherwise unglamorous world of data storage.

For one thing, it has regularly sponsored an annual “Digital Universe” study that seeks to estimate the amount of data that’s produced by all of us every year. Last year, EMC, in cooperation with the research firm IDC, determined that surveillance cameras and smart meters had pushed the amount of digital data created in 2012 to nearly three zettabytes. And in case you’ve lost track, zettabytes come after exabytes, which come after petabytes, which come after terabytes, which is the scale at which the average hard drive inside a PC is today. And for the record, the next one is yottabytes.

Anyway. Today, as reported by Mark Hachman at Slashdot, the storage company donated a storage system with a capacity of up to 2.8 petabytes to the Vatican Library. This library, established in 1475, contains some of the oldest texts in the world, some of the earliest copies of the Bible and millions of other books, pamphlets, letters, manuscripts, ephemera and incunabula from the dim mists of antiquity.

Enter EMC, which is helping the library digitize its entire collection so that its holdings can be viewed by the outside world. Here’s an example, but don’t ask me to tell you what it says.

Protecting the documents is considered kind of important. History has a way of destroying places where knowledge has been collected to suit the political whims of the moment. Consider the case of the Library of Alexandria, destroyed in phases ending sometime around the year 391. Digitizing what’s in the Vatican helps prevent something like that from happening again, no matter how unlikely it may seem today.

So what exactly is in the library? As it happens, “60 Minutes,” the TV news magazine on CBS, did a segment on it recently. A fascinating 12 minutes of television it is. After you watch it, you’ll be glad, too, that this stuff is getting preserved.

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle