Machdyne's Raspberry Pi RP2040-Powered Blaustahl Wants to Store Your Text for 200 Years

Built around an FRAM module, this USB dongle provides extreme long-term storage for up to 8kB of text.

Gareth Halfacree
29 days agoHW101

Self-described "timeless computing" specialist Machdyne has launched a USB stick with a difference, offering data retention estimated at around 200 years — providing you only need to store about four pages of plain text, at least.

"The Blaustahl USB dongle provides long-term storage for four pages of text (about 8,000 characters)," the company explains of its unusual creation. "Simply plug the device into your computer and open any serial communications program that supports VT100 emulation (PuTTY, Tera Term, Minicom, screen, etc.) in order to access the built-in text editor."

The device, brought to our attention by CNX Software, is powered by a Raspberry Pi RP2040 microcontroller — but that's not where your data gets stored. Neither is it stored in the on-board 4MB SPI flash, which is used to house the program that offers the serial terminal with its built-in text editor. Instead, it's stored on a Fujitsu MB85RS64 — a ferroelectric random-access memory (FRAM) module, which offers a 10¹² write cycle longevity and data retention estimated at 200 years at 35°C (95°F) or below.

The idea, then, is to store data you might need in the distant future — passwords, Machdyne suggests, or the private keys to cryptosystems, though at-rest encryption is a feature still on the drawing board.

The limited 8kB capacity of the device is, however, somewhat restrictive — and while it's four times the size of the company's earlier Stahl dongle, which used a Microchip ATmega32U2 as its driving microcontroller, it's a fraction of the up-to-512kB SPI-connected FRAM boards available from Adafruit for anyone wanting to roll their own.

For those who need small-scale yet long-term data retention, and who are confident in both the longevity of the other components on the board and the likelihood of being able to find a device with a USB port in a couple of centuries, the Machdyne Blaustahl is now available on the company store at €29.95 (around $33).

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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