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Data Storage Media

A History of Storage, From Punch Cards To Blu-ray 160

notthatwillsmith writes "Maximum PC just posted a comprehensive visual retrospective about data storage, starting with the once state of the art punch card and moving through the popular formats of yesteryear, including everything from magtape to Blu-ray discs. It's amazing how much data you could pack on a few hundred feet of half-inch magnetic tape!"
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A History of Storage, From Punch Cards To Blu-ray

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  • Incomplete (Score:5, Funny)

    by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:43PM (#27081327)
    The article fails to include the Library of Congress, to which all other storage mediums should be compared...
    • by Farmer Tim ( 530755 ) <roundfile&mindless,com> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:47PM (#27081419) Journal

      A good metric in general, but in this case the first page would consist of a zero, a decimal point, and lots of other zeros followed eventually by a significant digit.

      If I want to read a whole lot of nothing I'll go to Digg...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by gnick ( 1211984 )

      Indeed. Who in the world uses bites when the Library of Congress is the standard measurement for data storage. Let's call 1 LOC approximately 20 TB and use the max storage quoted in TFA:

      Punch Card (960 bits) ~= 0.000000006 LOCs
      Magnetic tape (35 kB) ~= 0.00000175 LOCs
      IBM Magnetic Tape (1 TB) ~= 0.05 LOCs
      Audio Tape (1400 kB) ~= 0.00000007 LOCs
      T10000 Magnetic Tape (1 TB) ~= 0.05 LOCs
      8" floppy (1.2 MB) ~= 0.00006 LOCs
      5.25" floppy (1.2 MB) ~= 0.00006 LOCs
      3.5" floppy ~= 0.000072 LOCs
      CD (700MB) ~= 0.035 LOCs

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Bromskloss ( 750445 )

      The article fails to include the Library of Congress, to which all other storage mediums should be compared...

      You should see how much information there is at the Congress of Libraries!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by slyn ( 1111419 )

      Was I the only one who thought it was odd that Betamax disks don't make the list at all? They mention it at the very end, they go over the HD-DVD and Blu-ray competition, and feature more obscure storage options (magneto-optical?). Why they actually left it out completely is beyond me

      • TFA omitted the original punched-cards which were strung together forming a chain and used to program weaving operations in a programmable loom. The earliest cards dated to about 1725 (and replaced punched paper tape!), while the more successful Jacquard cards dated to about 1800, and were the inspiration for Hollerith's decks of punched cards. Babbage planned on using Jacquard cards to input programs/data to his analytic engine. []
  • The one-page version (Score:5, Informative)

    by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) * <> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:46PM (#27081387) Homepage Journal
    For those who don't want to go through several pages of ads, is here [].
    • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )

      For those who don't want to go through several pages of ads, is here [].

      And here I'd already used a combination of EditCSS and Repagination to do it for myself when I could have just used the Print link.

  • to Blu-ray (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daimanta ( 1140543 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:49PM (#27081445) Journal

    Personally, I don't see Blu-Ray working like DVD and CD did. When the CD was released it was huge compared to HDDs. I remember possessing a 4GB drive, 7 CDs would match that. And CDs were pretty cheap by that time. Then came the DVD which was 100 times better than old magnetic tapes(I still have some of those lying around, dumb spacefillers).

    Now we have expensive Blu-ray which is 25GB per disc(50 for dl) and it's not at all impressive. It doesn't kick the ass of DVD. I can live with the quality DVD for a quite a while it's nothing compared to the ugly mess that we call VHS-tapes. They are not impressively big(with 1TB drives around for ca. eur. 100) and they cost a ton. Not only is the optical drive prohibitly expensive, the discs themselves do not come cheap). When the price of a Blu-Ray disc is 6x that of a DVD(they carry around 6 times the storage, sounds fair to me) call me again. Until that time, HDDs and DVDs will do just nicely.

    • Re:to Blu-ray (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @04:02PM (#27081585)
      It sounds like you don't remember the costs of CD and DVD burners and media when they first came out. In 1997 or 1998, a CD burner cost about 300 bucks, with media easily being 5-10 bucks a pop. When DVD burners came out a few years later, the prices were similar. Now we're onto Blu-ray, and again, the prices are about the same. Give it a few more years and prices will be about $40-50 for the burners and $20-25 for 15 blanks.
      • Re:to Blu-ray (Score:5, Interesting)

        by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @04:48PM (#27082163)
        But paying a few hundred bucks for a hard drive was normal then, too, and now it's not.

        And when data CDs first came out (mid-80s), they stored several times more than a high-end hard drive. Somewhere along the way, optical media fell far, far behind.

    • Re:to Blu-ray (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jasonwc ( 939262 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @04:10PM (#27081679)

      You're assuming Blu-Ray disks will continue to have only one or two layers. However, 8 and 16 layer disks have been produced, and would be readable by any current Blu-Ray player with a firmware update.

      Pioneer produced a 16 layer, 400 GB disk a few months ago, and they're attempting to produce a 1 TB disk by 2013.

      Also, I dispute your claim that there is not much difference between 480p and 1080p video. The detail level on some Blu-Ray's is simply staggering (e.g. Dark Knight, Planet Earth, Lost S04). Differences are especially apparent on animated content where production is all digital.
      For example, Wall-E and Ratatouille look amazing.

        It is far superior in color reproduction, vibrancy, and detail than DVD. There's also the benefit of lossless audio. Most Blu-Rays now come with lossless 24/48 khz tracks 5.1 or 7.1 tracks. This is significantly superior to the 448 kbit Dolby Digital tracks provided on most DVDs.

      Source: Wikipedia

      "In December 2008, Pioneer Corporation unveiled a 400 GB Blu-ray disc, which contains 16 data layers, 25 GB each, and will be compatible with current players after a firmware update. A planned launch is in the 2009-2010 time frame for ROM and 2010-2013 for rewritable discs. Ongoing development is under way to create a 1 TB Blu-ray disc as soon as 2013.[92]."

      • Re:to Blu-ray (Score:5, Insightful)

        by comm2k ( 961394 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @04:51PM (#27082229)

        It is far superior in color reproduction

        No it is not, it is still 8bpc and uses the same color sub-sampling (4:2:0) as DVD/DVB/ATSC etc...

        • by frieko ( 855745 )
          I think you could make a case that quantization effectively lowers color reproduction below 8 bpc. The higher the bitrate, the less quantization.
        • by mgblst ( 80109 )

          You often see bluray owners making up bullshit to justify their purchase.

          They also sit their studying every frame in great detail, rather than just watching the movie. Same people love 200hz tvs, where the tv makes up 3 extra frames - which is going to be way superior to just displaying one frame for 4 times as long. What a load of shit.

      • Re:to Blu-ray (Score:4, Interesting)

        by je ne sais quoi ( 987177 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @05:15PM (#27082561)
        For me the issue is not the technical merits of the blu-ray discs, it's the fact that as a distribution format for movies, they are loaded up with the most asinine DRM that I could possibly imagine. I recently built a new home PC and thought I'd finally take the plunge and buy the newest media and I got a blu-ray player for it. Since I don't own a television, I was looking forward to watching blu-ray movies on my monitor. As I discovered however, my monitor is DVI so I wasn't allowed to actually watch my legally purchased blu-ray movies on my legally purchased blu-ray player. Wow... To boot, I like to run linux and I couldn't get dumphd to run so to watch movies I have to buy each one, copy it to the hard drive while stripping it of DRM using the windows program anyDVD, and then I can watch it using linux. Wow, what a load of crap! Somebody needs to take a class action suit against whoever is pushing this HDCP nonsense.

        While there isn't any real connection between blu-ray as a distribution medium and blu-ray as a storage medium, if I find the standard blu-ray movies repulsive, I don't care what the technical merits of the disc are, I'm going to avoid it like the plague. I swear I'm not buying another blu-ray disc until this DRM HDCP virtual engine nonsense is removed (or reverse-engineered) and the movies play on linux and play easily.
        • they are loaded up with the most asinine DRM that I could possibly imagine.

          Its not just the DRM, they fill them with annoying adverts & notices that you cant skip.

          Every DVD i've bought recently has had this advert comparing stealing a car/handbag with copying a DVD. Aside from the fact they're not the same, they force you to watch it every time you watch the film. I see that as a big reason why I would download films as I've not yet seen a single downloaded film with any of these kinds of annoyances.

        • by Renraku ( 518261 )

          The point of DRM isn't to give you your fair use rights.

          The point of DRM is to lock the market out of your product unless they bought it, and everything that you decided should be required.

          Like an HDMI-capable monitor. But even that doesn't guarantee that you can use HDCP. It needs to be have certain hardware to be able to do it.

          Since the government and those companies aren't forcing you to use it, good luck suing them. Unless they're misrepresenting what they have, or are colluding to corner the market.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Sir_Lewk ( 967686 )

        Sure it may techincally be better, but I really couldn't care less. First off, I don't care that much to make the purcase of a better TV and a bluray player worth it. Secondly, even if I did have the hardware, I still wouldn't care enought to wear my glasses while watching the movie. My eyesight isn't perfect, but it's good enough for everyday use, wearing glasses offers little benifit for most activities, including watching movies. Honestly I don't see what's the big deal with being able to make out ev

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fm6 ( 162816 )

      Well, if everybody had run out and purchased big huge HD TV sets (which was the whole point of this analog-to-digital snafu), then DVD would be just unacceptable. Everybody would have to upgrade to Blu Ray to eliminate the pixelation.

      But people aren't running out and buying HD TV sets. This is partly because of the recession, but I think that people are just tired of getting soaked a lot of money for high-tech couch potato technology. VCRs. DVDs. HD TVs. (Coming soon: 3D TV!) Monthly cable bills that run p

  • Forgot one. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Clay tablets. The oldest technology and most reliable to date.

  • Drum (Score:2, Informative)

    by WillKemp ( 1338605 )

    It's not that comprehensive - there's no mention of drums or hard disk cartridges.

    The first system i worked on as an assembler programmer at the start of the 80s was an old 60s machine based around a drum. We booted it with paper tape and punched cards. (Ultronics SGS)

    • Missed a lot... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Obfuscant ( 592200 )
      The CDC system Michigan State University used in the late 70's used drum as swap and booted from a program stored in toggle switches. Not "toggled in", a large panel of toggle switches that contained the initial boot code bit by bit.

      The article also forgot to mention that Jaquard (sp?) is the initial inventor of the punched card, since that's what controlled the looms.

      And, of course, my favoritest kind of memory, the CRT. Yes, that was a very early memory device. And CORE. And the paper format that Byte (

      • And the paper format that Byte (or Compute, I forget which) magazine tried to get adopted in the 80's, a form of which appears on shipping labels today.

        It was Byte mag. They always programs in Cauzin Softstrip [] format. I always wanted to get a reader back in the day. Never did, though.

        To be honest, though, I think most of those were Softstrip ads, rather than Byte articles, but I could be wrong.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Drishmung ( 458368 )
      Or DDS/DAT [], DECTape [], DLT [], 'stringy' [] and a number of other tape media.

      No 96 column cards [] either.

      • by v1 ( 525388 )

        I was wondering where DLT went too, but then considered that it was never really a "consumer" storage solution. VERY popular in business though, with quite a history. 9Track also. Had to deal with both of those about 10 yrs ago.

        What most amazed me is that the MAJORITY of our big customers provided their raw data, and required us to send back the processed goods, on 9Track. And these were big names like Phillip Morris.

        But at that time there just wasn't a more economical way to ship large amounts of data

  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman&gmail,com> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:53PM (#27081477) Homepage Journal

    ...we notched lines on sticks. And we LIKED IT THAT WAY. We even developed a counting system out of it. See?


    That's 10. Ignore the previous notches. Some young whippersnappers thought it would be funny to do "subtractive" forms whereby IV would be "four". Oooo. I'm so impressed. Not. GET OFF MY LAWN.

    Oh, and they forgot about magnetic drums. :-P

  • I had an older friend who was a CS student in college during the late 70's. He had his final semester program on punch cards. Like a typical student he was rushing to class to turn in his project but tripped on the stairs thus sending the cards all over the place. You could hear his anguish miles away!
    • by Muad'Dave ( 255648 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @04:16PM (#27081777) Homepage

      I'm not saying it didn't happen to him (it is a good urban myth), but there were tools and procedures available to prevent it. Punched cards (for Fortran programs at least) had a sequence field in the last 8 columns [] for sorting decks, and usually you'd draw a diagonal line across the top of the card stack with a marker so that you could manually resort them if a sorter wasn't available.

      If you look at the layout for a fortran program, you'll see that it was heavily influenced by the punched card layout, or vice-versa.

      • by cbelt3 ( 741637 ) <> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @04:32PM (#27081959) Journal

        NOT an urban legend. Happened to me with a 550 card program at Mizzou in 1975. I was running through the halls to go get it punched on the auto-collator (I think that's what it was called- a machine that punched the extra columns on the right (73 through 80) in sequence so you could resort the cards. And I tripped, and the cards went flying.

        Fortunately I had a printout because I'd just run the program, so I just went back and keypunched the whole damn thing. And left the cards in the hall. I was a faster typist than a sorter.

        • Ouch! I'm sure that it happened to many people, hence the sequence number field. His was a FOAF-style story, so it smelled a little urban legend-y to me.

          For what it's worth, I missed out on punched cards, but did use punched paper tape. In fact, I still have the bootloader for a Concurrent 32xx series computer on punched tape somewhere - I saw it while packing to move. What was cool was the part number was punched in the leader like you would see from a dot matrix printer []. Clever!

          • students learning to code generally didn't punch the sequence number field, sometimes they would lay the cards out the floor in order to re-order a few statements, and let loop starts and conditionals stick out to the side a little. I know, I'm old.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by markana ( 152984 )

        Yup, the line across the top trick saved me once or twice in High School. I moved from a school with PDPs and TTYs for the students to one with an 029 keypunch and daily trips to the computer building. Talk about a downgrade... But you quickly learn to protect your card stack.

        On the last day of our Senior year, the computer geeks brought out the carefully-collected chad from the keypunch - and rained it down the 5-story main stairwells. I'll bet there's chad in there to this day...

        • Another thing to do, if your card punch did not print the code at the top of the card, was to have JCL cards to just print everything in between. This worked for small stuff, like college assignments, but not great for real world programs.

          Someplace I still have a card deck, a DEC tape, and a write-protect ring for a tape reel.
        • by CharlieG ( 34950 )

          Bronx Science by any chance?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ebh ( 116526 )

        Happened to me too. Only I didn't drop the deck down the stairs, I dropped it into a mud puddle. I was able to salvage about a quarter of the cards, and had to repunch the rest. Fortunately, I'd used one of those fancy Univac keypunches that printed the characters across the tops of the cards. Also, I wasn't close to deadline, so it was just a PITA instead of a disaster.

        And yes, I also remember the diagonal magic marker line trick.

        • by CharlieG ( 34950 )

          I think I was in my first week of Computer Science class when I was taught the diagonal line trick. Paid off a couple of times.

          I still have 2 boxes of cards! I bought them (unprinted on both sides) about 10 years ago - new! I use them as book marks/scrap/notepaper. Lots of fun when an old geek realizes what I'm using

          I got lucky my second term at college. I was going to a commuter school, and living at home. Dad's job required him to drive around NYC in a full sized van, and one day, he came across a k

      • I remember the disaster when two engineers had to take an FEA program and data to the mainframe half way across the country. On the way someone came out in front of them at a T-junction and the driver had to brake really hard. They just missed the idiot and carried on to Rugby. When they opened the boot they found it full of random oriented punch cards, the cardboard box having been flung about. There was no option but to return, re-sort all the cards, and book another trip.

        Youth of today, what do they know

    • by v1 ( 525388 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @05:38PM (#27082871) Homepage Journal

      You could hear his anguish miles away!

      The only significant risk would be losing or damaging a card. A damaged card would have to be repunched.

      The MOST POPULAR program on the mainframe was SORT. It would take a "shuffled deck" (out of order program deck) and sort it back into order. That program got ran quite a few times a day, every day. So getting your deck shuffled really wasn't that big of a deal. More dramatic than damaging.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:55PM (#27081501)

    Bird : Bird : Giant Eye : Pyramid : Bird : Giant Eye : Dead Fish : Cat Head : Cat Head : Cat Head :

    • Hey! It's certainly a proven long term storage solution. Just ask King Ramesses II.

  • I have used every one of those.

    I have even edited programs on paper tape with a pair of scissors and scotch tape.

    Just call me Sid.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SpinyNorman ( 33776 )

      Yeah - those early "storage" media were more than just for transporting your program around. They were also patchable. Fixing typos on punched cards was always fun - you fed a fresh card into the machine and held down the auto-repeat duplicate button which sounded like a machine gun as it sucked in the old/new cards and punched the new one up to the point of the error where you'd start typing again. I loved that noise!

      I also remember burning programs onto EPROMs for early machines like the BBC Micro or embe

  • My first encounter with computer storage was utility bills. "Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate". Smart-ass that I am I always stapled the check to them.

    Then I bought a Timex-Sinclair 1000, which used cassette as storage.

    My mom brought her work portable home about the same time, and wanted me to help her get it working. It used five and a half inch floppies; I don't remember the capacity, but you had to have the OS floppy in one drive and the other drive was used for data.

    I bought a used IBM XT with its ten

  • Jaz Drive (Score:5, Informative)

    by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:55PM (#27081507) Journal
    I worked with a bunch of Jaz Drives back in the day. One person dropped a disk, and it failed. The disk was inserted into a drive, and the drive failed. Another disk was inserted into that drive, and that disk failed. It spread like a plague through all of the machines.

    All of the money and data lost due to those things still makes me cringe.
    • Re:Jaz Drive (Score:4, Informative)

      by Gat0r30y ( 957941 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @04:20PM (#27081813) Homepage Journal
      The Jaz was just a bad idea is all. It was basically just an HDD, but instead of a single integrated system, you separate the media from the heads. Why is this a terrible idea? 1) dirty media will destroy heads right quick. 2) allowing people to move the media around, and even encouraging such behavior astronomically increases the chances you are going to get something bad onto the media. 3) Once a head goes, the whole thing is gone. Without fancy new stuff that goes into the freshest HDD's, this can mean that once the head goes you drive it straight into the media, forever destroying it and causing a general mess. 4) Instead of a nice pretty clean room environment (HDD's are sealed in a clean room), you introduce a bunch of dirtyness and nasty environmental particles every time you put a new disk into the reader.
      • I know someone who basically uses SATA drives as data cartridges.

        He found a SATA dock online and bought it; just drop the drive into the dock and there it is on your desktop. And the same website sold plastic cases to store bare hard drives in; they're like the boxes that hold VHS tapes at Blockbuster but smaller.

        I must say it's the most awesome idea ever and I might be getting myself one of those docks too. :)

        • Any idea where he got those cases from? I like this plan a lot and thing I might have to try it out ;-)

          I really need to maintain an offsite backup of my PhD work. The code goes into an online repository anyhow - it's open source. But the rest of my work, my e-mails etc are only backed up locally. It'd be good to have a cost effective way of doing a remote backup.

          The bonus relative to buying a USB HDD to keep offsite would be that I could also use a SATA dock to debug broken systems in the future by

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jschen ( 1249578 )
      This "click of death", or "hardware virus", affected the Zip drive, too. I let a friend borrow my computer once in 2000, and I returned to find my Zip drive affected. Iomega told me that since my Zip drive was an OEM part, I should contact Apple for a replacement. Apple wouldn't do anything about it (not for free, anyway) since it was out of warranty. So I called Iomega back up and explained what happened when I contacted Apple, and true to their recent (at the time) promise to replace every Zip drive that
      • I've heard of the "click of death" on the Zip drive. More people know about the problems with the Zip since it was more widely adopted than the Jaz (likely due to the Jaz drive's price).

        However, I should add, this failure occurred within a mater of months/weeks after the hardware was purchased. In contrast, I own several Zip drives and have never experienced the "click of death."
    • I have known people to do the same thing with the old CDC drives. The washing machine sized ones with the little blue cover for the removable media. It's possible they could have destroyed more hardware by trying to boil a live gorilla in the machine room, but not by much.
  • by wjh31 ( 1372867 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:56PM (#27081515) Homepage
    It manages to list lots of faliures and successes, but still managed to miss HDD's and SSD, y'know, the sporta thing where people probably store most of their data
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by fm6 ( 162816 )

      OOOh, right you are! Big lapse, that. A bit like listing key events in WW II while skipping over Pearl Harbor!

      A couple of other bits of sloppiness:

      No, Hollerith cards had nothing to do with the founding of IBM. John Watson did that much later, by merging several companies that included Hollerith's Tabulating Machines Company. People called them "IBM cards" because IBM dominated data processing during the period where punched cards were the only digital storage medium most people knew about.

      Although IBM did

  • When I started college they still had their keypunch machine sitting in the computer room. Thank Dog we were already onto those keyboards with the lined paper feeding through the middle. People would fight to get one of the two available CRTs. When I started my first job our printer was booted/connected using punch cards. Suddenly... I... feel... old.
  • They had me going until this point:

    Going forward, look for the eSATA interface to become more prominent.

    While I would dearly love to see eSATA become more than at best a niche interface, its not going to happen. USB3 with backwards compatibility and Firewire poised to hit 3.2GB/s in it's next standard, I wouldn't bet the farm on eSATA becoming more popular than either standard.
    On another note, they mention the MD card, but none of Sony's other forays into proprietary storage systems. One could probably devote a whole article in itself to Sony's endless attempts to rel

  • This entire article seems a little anachronistic.

    and only recently has it become common to find new PCs with a naked 3.5-inch drive bay.

    What are they talking about? I haven't seen a new PC with a floppy drive in years.

  • by SpinyNorman ( 33776 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @04:20PM (#27081825)

    Not that they really missed much by doing so...

    This was another of Sinclair's cheap and cheerful designs that never took off - it was used on the Sinclair MX and QL (remember that? - thought not!) computers. The stringy floppy was a small form factor hybrid between a floppy and tape drive. The tapes themself were about the size of a compact flash drive, although a bit fatter, and what they contained was a continuous loop of tape three-dimensionally arranged so that the bulk of it was looped around one spindle, and the other end was looped around another... I'm not sure what the point of it was really meant to be other than the physical small size.. I guess the endless tape loop was meant to give it some advantage.

    • Don't remember the MX. I had a ZX, though and I shelled out for a microdrive for a birthday. It was pretty cool, as were the microfloppies themselves. They weren't terribly reliable.

      For the QL they upped the storage capacity on the microfloppies by .... changing the speed of the drive motor! Hurrah for old tech ;-)

      I saw a picture somewhere of an old mainframe / minicomputer with approximately a giant version of the Sinclair microfloppy technology - it just looked like a big box with a pile of tape i

      • I went to a lecture on the QL only a few years ago by my local computer preservation society. Apparently it had a windowed interface and a pre-emptively multitasking OS - took PCs years (decades even, depending on if you were a home user!) to catch up. I understood the QL was Sinclair's attempt at a business machine, don't know how much success they had.

        I can't recall it having much success, but it was certainly ambitious and ahead of it's time - it also had a 32 bit CPU (68008) when most everything else wa

    • 90kb loaded in about 4 seconds, versus 45kb loaded in 3-5mins from cassette. And random access storage.

      They were about 1/5th the cost of a floppy disk drive (and about 1/10th as reliable)

      I still have a couple of working microdrives and a bunch of the little carts in my Speccy collection. Fun to get them out every now and then to remind myself what I used to consider state of the art. (That, and the silver toilet roll ZX printer.)
  • IBM Reference (Score:5, Informative)

    by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @04:44PM (#27082101)

    To get a better look at where storage came from, head on over to IBM's Archives: [] Then check out the historical product profiles, documentation and videos: []

  • The Control Data Corporation data cartridge []!

    Back in my university days, we used these for offline archival.

  • Punch Cards (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mishotaki ( 957104 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @05:02PM (#27082389)
    Back in my childhood, my dad took a couple thousands of those phased out punch cards... we used them to takes notes for YEARS, we just had a lot of them... at least all that paper was used for transferring information, even if not used for it's original purpose...
    • Back in high school a student's mom worked at the IRS, and would bring us five gallon buckets full of "chads". There's no greater confetti for football games!

    • by CharlieG ( 34950 )

      I still use them as note paper. About 8-9 years ago, I figured it would be cool to have some punch cards to remind me of "the old days". I found a company that was still making them, and I bought the minimum order - 2 boxes of I think 1000 cards each

  • by metasonix ( 650947 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @05:14PM (#27082547) Journal
    Quote: "The long length presented plenty of opportunities for tears and breaks, so in 1952, IBM devised bulky floor standing drives that made use of vacuum columns to buffer the nickel-plated bronze tape."

    Wrongo, buddy. Stop cribbing from IBM's website. IBM is notorious for making themselves out as "pioneers" for every computing technology.

    The first magnetic-tape drive for a computer to ACTUALLY BE SHIPPED was the Univac Uniservo drive. First system with drives went to the US Census Bureau in December 1951--more than a year before IBM shipped their first tape drive. (and yes, it used nickel-plated bronze tape.)
    • by mbone ( 558574 )

      I thought it was funny that they said IBM, but the picture was Univac.

    • Wrongo, buddy.

      Right back at you - the passage you quoted didn't claim they shipped the first tape drives, but the first tape drives with vacuum columns. Vacuum columns the UNISERVO didn't have. UNISERVO used pulleys and springs to buffer tape motion, a system that vanished in favor of IBM's vacuum system.

    • by Animats ( 122034 )

      Actually, the first digital tape drive was a custom job for Arlington Hall / National Security Agency. There's a book on early cryptographic equipment which mentions this, but I don't have the reference handy.

      I've seen a UNIVAC I in full operation, and I still have some reels of UNIVAC metal tape. I also once had the opportunity to paw through a junked UNIVAC I in a surplus store. The original UNISERVO used Mcintosh tube audio amplifiers to power the tape reel motors.

  • Why did they hit on Zip and Jaz, but leave off Rev drives?
  • From TFA:

    In 1966, HP introduced the 2753A Tape Punch, which boasted a blistering fast tape pinch speed of 120 characters per second and sold for $4,150.

    The paper tape system developed for the Colossus project was a bit more impressive: they settled on 5000 char/s, but found they could crank up the speed to about 9000 char/s before the tape would disintegrate. The fastest commercial system I could find got 2000 char/s, with burst speeds up to 10x that.

    • by tedgyz ( 515156 ) *

      Yeah - paper tape was just as notable as punch cards. We used to boot our PDP-11 off paper tape.

  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @05:45PM (#27082985)

    In 1980 a Gigabyte of memory was a large room full of Winchester drives. If you did computing on IBMs back then, you used (although maybe never saw) Winchester drives.

    I liked drum drives too - not much space, but they looked cool.

    But, watch out for fan-folded punched paper tape. As the paper aged, it would crack on the folds.

  • and it was fun to make the operator have to deal with it... of course, nothing was better than shuffling your roommates program deck.

  • Missed ours (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hurfy ( 735314 ) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @06:07PM (#27083399)

    Seems to be focused on REMOVABLE media since they skipped most HD info entirely.

    They still missed what i used for many years, the removable platter or disk pack. I fought with our Wang computer for over 10 years doing backup onto a 13MB removable HD platter. 80MB drive with multiple platters, the top one being a removable cartridge. Lugged one (well, two actually) of those suckers home each week for ages.

    At least i won that fight...the Wang now sits vanquished in my dungeon...waiting until i get brave enough to turn off everything else in the house and see if it still fires up :) Everyone needs at least one Hard Drive that weighs more than they do!

    I agree some of the dates were a little premature...common manufacture dates perhaps, not usage.

    And then there is the not so common dates....we still use the T1000 Travan tape drive daily and the Jaz drive is still hooked up :)

  • the article completely ignores the syquest drives. []

    before e-mail and cd-r rendered them obsolete, syqyest's removable hard drives were the standard in the prepress and publishing industry. syquest 44 and 88 megabyte drives were traded around like floppies. especially since floppies couldn't hold a multi-megabyte digital image.

    back in the '90s you could hardly find a graphic designer who didn't have a 5.25" syquest drive (attached to their mac) and at least a han

  • Yes, I did originally learn FORTRAN by punching in programs on Hollerith cards, thank you very much! Now I feel really, really old...

    We had an assignment to write a program which checked 4 conditions and acted accordingly, something that should take about 20 cards. One smart-ass punched up an 800 card program (many cards exact duplicates), then discovered they wouldn't all fit in the card hopper at once! Program probably wouldn't have all fit in the 4K of magnetic core on the GA-1830 anyway. I wonder what

  • When I did my CompSci degree at Cambridge, UK we were given lectures by all the currently living previous heads of department. The old was Maurice Wilkes ( He's an amazing chap, last I heard he was still going into the department to work on a regular basis (!) having been born in 1913.

    Anyhow, he showed us a picture of himself standing next to The First Hard Drive (cue angelic chorus) as demonstrated by IBM. It was about as tall as a man, the platter

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun