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Data Crystal

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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 do so 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, a three-dimensional storage matrix should work 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 Higher-Tech Species or residents of Crystal Spires and Togas.


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     Anime and Manga  
  • A major MacGuffin in Battle Angel Alita: Last Order is an ancient computer program encoded on a crystal.
  • The portable data storage units shown to be used in Mobile Suit Gundam 00 is a narrow rectangular crystalline structure with a small strap attached. It's exact specifics are never elaborated on but seems to be the de facto standard form for portable information.
  • Digimon Adventure: (2020): Moon=Milleniumon is a sentient dark crystal used by the forces of darkness to evolve Digimon to higher levels.

     Comic Books  

     Fan Works  
  • 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.
  • In Doctor Whooves The Series, the Quilin have crystal-based tech, including memory diamonds that work as both camera and data card.
  • Astral Disaster: Quivering's magic orb is a very big crystal ball that can hold lots of information and even act as a GPS. Once Quivering reveals his true colors and unlocks the orb's (or rather, the Star Of Sylas) full power, he shows that it even has millenia-old recordings of the Stellmare Clan, as well as the three tribes.
  • In Maverick Hunter Quest, they are a common feature of Reploids.


  • 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.
  • Overlord (2012): The light novel mentions data crystals as the basis for just about anything that can be modded in-game, including weapon effects or even books uploaded to share with other users.
  • 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.
  • In Courtship Rite, one of the Kaiel's most sacred relics is a large crystal disc they call "the Frozen Voice of God". No one had any idea it contained data, though, until Kathein developed a machine to read it, showing that it mostly contained gene sequences. Oelita turns out to have another one that she has no idea of what it is. When read it turns out to be a history book on warfare from ancient Earth.
  • In the short story "Digitocracy" by Andy Weir, the Master Computer is essentially this.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: ORBS, which are so multi-purpose and possibly intelligent that the guide says:
    it seems likely that they are in reality the positronic brains of dismembered robots, imported from the SF Tour.

     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.
  • In Christopher Anvil's Colonization setting, computers appear to have 'master crystals' where today's computers would have a CPU.
  • Blake's 7. In the episode "Killer", data blocks (in the form of transparent cubes) are given to the protagonist. However they are by no means ubiquitous as ordinary tapes are also mentioned.

     Tabletop Games 
  • 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 from native Venusian Crystals, such as the speaker's staff and the Venusian wood axe.
  • Eberron:
    • Dragonshards, among many other magical uses, can be used by a Wizard as spellbook-equivalents, recording the spells they know.
    • In Sarlona, the Inspired use crystals implanted with thoughts or emotions to spread information. Because of this, most Riedrans are illiterate, which makes them easier for the Inspired to control.

     Video Games  
  • A Final Unity: In this Star Trek: The Next Generation licensed PC game, Picard receives a Chodak data crystal maybe halfway through the game, and tries to decipher its data with the Enterprise's computer. Being nearly a million years old, there's been a lot of data corruption.
  • EXA_PICO has Hymn Crystals, which allows for songs (which are used as "magic" in the game) to be stored and later downloaded into Reyvateils.
  • Ecco the Dolphin has Glyphs, Atlantean data crystals that store all manner of things such as messages, historical records, songs, and even temporary invincibility.
  • Fate/EXTRA: The Moon Cell supercomputer uses photonic crystals as a data storage medium. Where in real life only very small photonic crystals have been developed (and even those had hundreds of TB of storage), the Moon Cell is a mass of photonic crystals the size of... well, the Moon.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy X has Spheres, which hold holographic recordings.
    • Final Fantasy X-2 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 and 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.
  • In addition to the holocrons mentioned above, Star Wars: The Old Republic has Common, Glowing, and Radiant data crystals as a secondary in-game currency for buying high-level gear.
  • If the Inquisitor sides with the Templars in Dragon Age: Inquisition, part of one quest will have them find and assemble such a crystal, which is then used to spy on the enemy. Later in the same quest chain, they will have the opportunity to review a number of crystal recordings made by the Big Bad.

     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.
  • In Our Shadow: Shortly before their extinction humans started storing data in nigh-indestructible diamond-and-gold circuit boards.

     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.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "The Crystal Empire", Celestia displays a crystal to Twilight that, when powered by magic, shows a hologram of the Crystal Empire and of Celestia and Luna's fight against King Sombra, the antagonist of the two-part episode.

     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 does 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.
  • Phase Change Memory is one avenue for research into future storage tech. It's a form of memory where some reversible process is applied to a material (for example heating) in order to change the phase (the type of solid) of a specific portion of the material between a crystalline state (where the atoms form a coherent structure) and an amorphous state (where the atoms still form a solid but are all jumbled up without a discernible structure). As the crystalline and amorphous phases have different conductivities, the resistance of the treated area can be treated as a binary 1 or 0. In theory such storage devices would retain data without power and last for a very long time, as well as have very fast read times (all you have to do is feed a current through an area of the material and measure its resistance to determine binary 1 or 0). One big drawback with phase change technology is that writing is extremely slow and consumes considerable power as you need to get the material to the correct temperature to effect the state change.
  • Taiwan-based Polytron Technologies has not only built transparent USB memory sticks, but transparent smartphones.
  • A team of physicists from the City University of New York demonstrated the ability to encode images into diamonds by manipulating nitrogen vacancy centers with lasers, creating a literal example of this trope.