Tinkerbell takes a technical tumble

Tinkerbell takes a technical tumble

IBM's latest attempt to distance itself from its deep blue suit image by placing its faith in a "magical", "new" material called "pixie dust" is enough to knock Tinkerbell right off her perch.

Closer examination reveals that IBM's pixie dust is neither new, nor magical, and only succeeds in tugging on the heart strings of a few dedicated JM Barrie fans out there.

When IBM says "pixie dust" they are referring to a layer of Ruthium sandwiched between two magnetic layers, not a magical powder which provides users with the power of flight and elfin dexterity. Far from it. Ruthium is a hard, white metal often found in ores that also contain precious metals such as silver, platinum and gold. Russian chemist Karl Klaus Karlovich first identified Ruthium in 1844 and, being a bit of a nationalist, named it after "Ruthenia", the Latin form of "Russia". Heaven knows what he was looking for at the time because the extraction process doesn't bear thinking about, unless you have lots of letters after your name or have chalked up an unnatural amount of time in a chemistry lab.

Generally condemned to the status of byproduct because of the company it keeps, Ruthium appears to have come in to its own in the antiferromagnetically-coupled media, as IBM attests it will quadruple the data density of current hard disk drives.

It won't help you to fly and it won't take you to Never Never Land, but chances are IBM is hoping it will magically whisk away some of their competition in the fiercely competitive storage market.

However, given that IBM is busily promoting the new media as capable of holding the equivalent of 400,000 books on the common household desktop disk drive, you would think they could stop to read a few before they wrote their press releases.

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