IBM, in its never-ending quest to store the maximum amount of information in the minimum of space, has announced that it has stored 1 bit of data in just 12 atoms. Typical information storage materials in use now require about a million atoms to store a bit.
(IBM tells all video)
"What we are allowed to do in this laboratory is we are allowed to jump to the ultimate end and start with single atoms and build one atom at a time. In this breakthrough what we have done is we have stored magnetic information in only twelve atoms... For the first time, we have seen that these twelve atoms form a stable magnetic unit."
Science fiction writers have been imagining this future for generations. The first time I ever heard of this idea was in Robert Heinlein's 1951 novel Between Planets.
"It is theoretically possible to have a matrix in which each individual molecule has a meaning - as they do in the memory cells of your brain. If we had such subtlety, we could wrap your Encyclopedia Britannica into the head of a pin - it would be the head of that pin..."
(Read more about Heinlein's molecule matrix)