Data Crystal

Today, flash drives. Tomorrow, precious gems!

Rather than use magnetic, optical, flash drive or solid-state drive based information storage mediums, in the future there will be ways to read and write data onto transparent crystaline solids. This jump in technology usually makes each Data Crystal a veritable Bag of Holding for information, uploading and downloading entire planetary databases in seconds. The crystals may be shaped like quartz, techno Crystal Balls or as diamond or gem cut jewelry.

Data Crystals often double as video recorders and Hologram emitters, allowing owners to record, store and project their home movies. Because Power Glows, these Data Crystal hologram projectors can often even do without an external power source.

Truth in Television with the fact that deep inside all of the plastic cladding, all solid-state electronic devices are based on crystalline semiconductors; also, in that a three-dimensional storage matrix should in theory, and once the engineering problems around heat dissipation and signal routing can be solved, offer orders of magnitude greater information density for a given volume than any possible refinement of the essentially two-dimensional storage methods in use today.

Sub-Trope of Power Crystal and Mineral MacGuffin, often used by resident of Crystal Spires and Togas.


Examples:

Anime and Manga

  • The Gosroth's log in Crest of the Stars takes the form of a data crystal, which is passed on to Lafiel and Jinto when they're ordered to flee an impending battle.
  • A major MacGuffin in Battle Angel Alita: Last Order is an ancient computer program encoded on a crystal.

Comic Books
  • In post Infinite Crisis Superman stories, Superman's Fortress of Solitude uses sunstone crystals to work his computer. This was taken from the Superman films (see below).

Fanfiction
  • In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, all memory of Smurf history that was transferred into Empath's mind from his great-grandson in the future has been transferred into a magical memory crystal, which in-universe will be given to Peyo so that he can create The Smurfs.

Film
  • In Superman and Superman II, Superman's Fortress of Solitude at the North Pole has a system that stores information on crystals. In Superman Returns, it is mentioned that the crystal impressively holds 95% of Krypton's entire knowledge. The remaining 5% is never mentioned again.
  • In 2001: A Space Odyssey, the hard drives of the HAL 9000 computer are shown as blocks of clear crystal/glass. Astronaut David Bowman manually ejects them from their drive bays in order to disable HAL.
  • Mocked in Star Wreck: In the Pirkenning, where the parody of Lt. Keffer of Babylon 5 is shot down by the P-Fleet and his flight data recorder is recovered. Being based on Babylon 5 tech, it's in the form of a data crystal, and the Sheridan-analogue briefly thinks that Keffer was turned into a crystal by aliens before being corrected.

Literature
  • Star Wars has holocron crystals.
  • One of the characters in the Wild Cards series is Jube the Walrus. As an agent of the interstellar trading consortium known as the Network, he has advance technological devices such as recording crystals that can store information.
  • In the "Darwath Trilogy" by Barbara Hambly, the earlier human civilization that built the Keep of Dare used magitech data crystals to store information.
  • Sholan Alliance: Sholan computers make extensive use of removable data crystals. When the lead characters are preparing to return from their trip to the past, One of the ancient locals points out the location where they've hidden an important data crystal that is later recovered in the present.
  • Used ubiquitously in Andrey Livadny's The History of the Galaxy series, mostly by humans. Some aliens use them as well. The ones that bear special attention are the logrs, small jewel-like crystals invented by the Logrians that are, actually, self-contained computers powerful enough to be able to store a sentient being's mind and allow the individual to live on in a virtual world. The functionality of logrs can be expanded by connecting several logrs together in a particular configuration. The largest collection of the logrs is the Logris, a gigantic supercomputer visually similar to the Crystalline Entity from Star Trek. Many of the logrs that compose the Logris actually contain personalities of dead Logrians, and more and more human logrs are being added to it.
  • The Book of the New Sun: visiting a vast and decaying library, Severian is told that it contains a cube of crystal the size of the ball of one's thumb, which contains more books than the entire world. The blind librarian is no longer sure where it is, and it is questionable whether he would have a reader anyway.

Live-Action TV
  • In Smallville, it was also a crystal that grows into the Fortress of Solitude. The Fortress quickly becomes the resident Deus ex Machina, for good or for worse. It has since displayed the ability to (sometimes with added crystals) clone kryptonians, remove or restore kryptonian powers and/or memories, imprison kryptonian-grade beings, open a portal to the Phantom Zone, create an eclipse, and holding information as stated above.
  • Space Cases: The Android Thelma exhibited odd behavior throughout the show due to a memory crystal that Harlan accidentally damaged in the first episode. The main ship in the series, the Crysta, also used similar technology.
  • One episode of Eureka introduced Data Diamonds. Capable of storing utterly massive amounts of information on the molecular level. They needed proper hardware though as lesser computers combusted from the extreme processing.
  • Alphas, one episode featured a necklace made from some strange crystals, and they figure out that it stores information on specially arranged molecule structures.
  • In the first season of Fringe, there were the glass disks and they were data storage devices, Massive Dynamic was able to read information from them.
  • Farscape, too, had data crystals in several episodes, most notably the navigation crystal in "DNA Mad Scientist."
  • Hyperdrive featured this trope being replaced by even more effective crystals (as a DVD to Blu-Ray analogue).
  • Tracker had this, they were maps stored on crystals. The first one got left behind at an alien-theme restaurant after a fight, but Cole found the second one hidden in a stored museum piece. They were maps of the Lake Michigan area to show the way to the Doomsday Device hidden under the Watchfire bar.
  • Shows up occasionally in Star Trek, primarily in later TNG, DS9, and Voyager.
  • In the Stargate 'verse most space-faring species use crystals extensively in their computers. In one case a storage crystal from an old Goa'uld research base is dismissed as a simple decoration by archaeologists, until the invaders hanging overhead start looking for it.
  • Babylon 5: Data Crystals are used by virtually every race, in much the same way we use USB sticks.
  • An episode of Sliders has the team slide into a world where most of the world is run by bandits. Most of civilized knowledge has been destroyed, except for a small island where the entirety of human knowledge is kept by secretive monks. When it looks like the bandits have discovered the island and are invading, Diana sets up a system to record the entire database onto a large crystal (unlike most examples, this particular crystal is uncut) that spins while a laser shines into it. In the end, the library is destroyed, and two of the monks manage to make it out alive along with the crystal. It's not clear how's they're supposed to figure out the extraction process, though, as the knowledge for that is inside the crystal.

Tabletop RPG
  • Shadowrun. Information can stored on optical crystals ("chips"). This includes cyberdeck components.
  • Starblazer Adventures, based on the 1980's British Comic Book. The Random Key Items/Target of Objective random table lists Data Crystals as a possible target for an Item Mission.
  • In Eclipse Phase cortical stacks are almost solid diamond, though mostly for its durability.
  • In Rocket Age the Erisians appear to have used crystals as computers. In the modern era their Venusian descendants are able to store psychic energy in shards and make other powerful artefacts, such as the speaker's staff and the Venusian wood axe.

Video Games
  • Ar tonelico has Hymn Crystals, which allows for songs (which are used as "magic" in the game) to be stored and later downloaded into Reyvateils.
  • Final Fantasy X has Spheres, which hold holographic recordings.
    • The sequel expands upon this with the invention of the Garment Grid, which allows the party to use the skills and abilities of the person whose memories are captured on the sphere - translating into a Job or Class. This (of all things) actually becomes a major plot point when Yuna's usage of the Songstress Sphere actually awakens Lenne's dormant memories.
  • The Halo series has these and uses them for storing artificial intelligences. Less complex data is simply transmitted.
  • The Mega Man Battle Network series has these... Kinda. Unknown data takes the form of an 8-sided crystal, in three colors, green, blue, and purple. It's unknown whether or not this is actually crystalline though.
  • In Might & Magic VI, one plot stage is retrieving and installing four Memory Crystals for an ancient planetary computer. As a possible joke from developers, after you've knocked yourself out hunting for the crystals, there's a crate in the control center chock-full of the same crystals, lying around like trash.
  • In StarCraft, the Protoss are an almost literal Crystal Spires and Togas society and use crystals as power sources and to store their thoughts and knowledge on. The Warp Prism transport in the sequel is actually described as a crystal computer, able to scan lifeforms and machines, convert them to energy and store the data in its databanks, then reconfigure them from energy back into matter.
  • Star Wars: DroidWorks features crystals that display messages when a laser is shined on them. A few show video clips from the movies.

Web Comics
  • Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire has "info points", though it's considered quaint.
  • 8-Bit Theater has Dataspheres, which look like cubes. According to Red Mage, one has enough information to overflow the entire universe and possibly drive anyone who looks into it mad.

Web Original
  • In Orion's Arm, the "ultimate chip", doesn't look like a single crystal and was originally intended for use as a processor for very advanced distributed computing, can also store massive amounts of data, and is made of diamondoid, which is a crystal.

Western Animation
  • BIONICLE: Memory Crystals.
  • Shadow Raiders has the alliance control their Battle Moons (and all of their fleet) with crystal keys with the security codes.

Real Life
  • The reason for this trope is because crystals have been suggested as a storage medium for holographic memory.
  • While all semiconductors function through quantum effects in their crystal structure, some technologies like Silicon on Sapphirenote  more accurately reflect this trope.
  • There do exist various experimental molecular-level storage technologies though they look and operate nothing like a gem.
  • William Gibson reportedly thought that computer chips actually looked like this. Back in The '80s!
  • The actual semiconductor crystal part of any electronic device (the integrated circuitry) tends to be rather small, as being small is better for both performance and cost-effectiveness, and so they're not generally associated as being based on shiny crystals despite the fact that... they are.