This USB flash drive can only store 8KB of data, but will last you 200 years

Rostec
(Image credit: Rostec)

When you buy a flash drive, you certainly want capacity, performance, and resiliency in that order. However, there is a flash drive that offers exactly opposite features: an 8KB (yes, eight kilobytes, 8192 symbols) capacity, but that capacity can last for 200 years—just in case one needs to preserve it this way. It is priced at €29.95 with taxes and has a blue LED, which is essential, so I tell you.

The Blaustahl USB storage device by Machdyne features 8KB of FRAM and is designed for long-term text storage, potentially lasting over 200 years. It incorporates a Raspberry Pi RP2040 microcontroller, making it suitable for various secure storage applications in case it can fit into a tiny amount of storage space.

The device uses FRAM (Ferroelectric RAM), known for its ultra-low power consumption, rapid write speeds (like if you do care at 8KB), and extremely high write endurance, capable of one million billion read/write cycles. It makes it superior to EEPROM and NOR flash in terms of performance, though it comes at an unbelievably high cost. The Blaustahl includes 4MB of NOR flash for firmware and a USB Type-A male port that requires no additional drivers on most operating systems.

What can you store in an 8KB device? Well, a few pages of text, depending on the formatting. Speaking of text, in a bid not to embarrass yourself among your ancestors, the Blaustahl features a built-in text editor accessible through serial communication programs like PuTTY and Tera Term. On second thought, this makes it ideal for secure storage of passwords, cryptocurrency keys, notes, and geocaching data—if you are brave enough.

But then again, it is FRAM. FRAM stands out for its longevity and endurance compared to other storage solutions. It can retain data for over 200 years at 35°C, outperforming NOR flash, which lasts up to 200 years, according to the manufacturer, and NAND flash, which lasts between 16 to 20 years under similar conditions. EEPROM also offers good data retention but with longer write times and fewer write cycles compared to FRAM, yet at 8KB you do not care anyway.

There is good news, too: future firmware updates are expected to include encryption features, further enhancing the device's security. The firmware, schematics, and enclosure design files are all accessible on GitHub, allowing users to explore and modify the device to suit their needs.

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • Metal Messiah.
    outperforming NOR flash, which lasts up to 200 years, according to the manufacturer,

    Correction. NOR flash is limited to up to 20 years at 55°C.

    You missed one important point the original article mentions though, the limitation.

    All this will also depend on read/cycle cycles and other conditions like humidity levels.

    We also have to consider the complete device as if the RP2040 stops working after 30 years, or the USB port becomes rusty to the point of being unusable, it does not matter that much to have a long-lasting FRAM chip, although physical recovering methods (e.g. unsoldering) might still be possible.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    Only 800 more years to go to beat the M-Disk.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    Alvar Miles Udell said:
    Only 800 more years to go to beat the M-Disk.
    Show us an M-Disk that has actually lasted for 1,000 years.

    I know they've simulated this wear level, but, we're about 980 years from proving the 1,000.

    Or 199 years from proving this flash drive.
    Reply
  • AngelusF
    Surely the real question is whether or not there will be USB in 200 years.
    Reply
  • Li Ken-un
    AngelusF said:
    Surely the real question is whether or not there will be USB in 200 years.
    But it’s universal! Surely that must translate to eternal ubiquity! (/s)


    Metal Messiah. said:
    physical recovering methods (e.g. unsoldering) might still be possible.
    Out of curiosity, I checked out the specs for some F-RAM chips. Apparently some mention a limited number of (de)soldering cycles for data retention. One would hope that this limit isn’t also a function of age like NAND data retention duration.
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    Of course it's from some startup company you never heard of, who was only established in 2021, so if the hardware fails in a few years, they might not even be around to answer for it. The device also appears to only be covered by a 1 year warranty, which seems a bit light for a product purported to be able to last for 200 years.

    It's also questionable what you might even use this for. 8KB only works out to a few pages of plaintext. If your goal were long-term preservation of such a small amount of data, it seems like you would get better results by simply engraving text onto a sheet of plastic or metal. And if you were just storing passwords or something, the need for potentially 200 years of storage seems a bit questionable. If you want short-term redundancy, just mirror the data across 2 or more normal higher-capacity flash drives. And even if it were for some mission-critical storage task, would you really entrust that to a device from some unknown company that doesn't even specialize in storage?
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    AngelusF said:
    Surely the real question is whether or not there will be USB in 200 years.
    More specifically, USB-A.
    Reply
  • NedSmelly
    I’d just print out a hard copy of 8KB worth of code if I wanted to archive it for several hundred years. That’s around 5 pages of Letter / A4 (depending on font size).
    Reply
  • DefNotANerd
    POV: Year 2222

    *man opens time capsule*
    "It appears to be some ancient technology of storage"
    *Insert USB in old computer*
    "It appears to be a text file that says "read me", let's open it".

    The file:

    8========D
    Reply
  • LabRat 891
    The usefulness of these kinds of devices are for Hardware DRM Keys, and other "hypersecurity"* measures.
    Especially for long service life equipment like CnC machines, Automation and Control systems, etc.

    Don't forget that, most of the 'DRM' we've come to know and disdain today, came from 'Industrial' computer technology industries


    *I sincerely hope I just made that word up. :unsure:
    Reply