Racing Toward Yottabyte Information

Yotta, yotta, yotta—that’s the Greek prefix we’ll soon need to describe the vastness of our data archives—yotta, yotta, yotta

3 min read
Illustration by Stuart Bradford
Illustration: Stuart Bradford

Once upon a time, information was deposited only inside human brains, and ancient bards could spend hours retelling stories of conflicts and conquests. Then external data storage was invented. 

Small clay cylinders and tablets, invented in Sumer some 5,000 years ago, often contained just a dozen cuneiform characters, equivalent to a few hundred bytes (102 B). The Oresteia, a trilogy of Greek tragedies by Aeschylus (fifth century BCE), amounts to about 300,000 B (105 B). Some rich senators in imperial Rome had libraries housing hundreds of scrolls, with one large collection holding at least 108 B (100 megabytes).

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.


If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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