Data Storage Then and Now

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pedestrian Infidel blogs an image of 4 MB of magnetic computer storage being hoisted aboard an aircraft in 1956, which Snopes.com confirms to be authentic. For comparison, there's an image to its right of an 8GB pen drive much like the one I carry around in my pocket at work every day.

4 MB, ca. 6 ft., 2000 lb.

The urban legend site quotes an EETimes account:
It started with a product announcement in May of 1955. IBM Corp. was introducing a product that offered unprecedented random-access storage -- 5 million characters (not bytes, they were 7-bit, not 8-bit characters). This first disk drive heralded startling leaps in mass-storage technology and the end of sequential storage on punched cards and paper or Mylar tape, though magnetic tape would continue for archival or backup storage.

The disk drive was big, not quite ready for today's laptop. With its vacuum-tube control electronics, the RAMAC (for "random-access method of accounting and control") occupied the space of two refrigerators and weighed a ton. It stored those 5 million characters on 50 hefty aluminum disks coated on both sides with a magnetic iron oxide, a variation of the paint primer used for the Golden Gate Bridge. [bold added]
Yesterday's storage device was about 30 times longer than today's, 67 thousand times heavier, and yet stored only 1/2000th the amount of data! (HT: Michael Gold)

-- CAV

Updates

Today
: (1) Today's magnetic media are no less startling than flash memory when compared to the old hard drive. For example, we own a 120 GB portable hard drive which weighs just ounces and is about the size of a pocket calculator. Iomega offers a somewhat larger "desktop" external hard drive with a capacity of 1.5 TB! (2) Added editorial note in brackets to block quote.

2 comments:

Adrian Hester said...

Yo, Gus, you write: "Yesterday's storage device was about 30 times longer than today's, 67 thousand times heavier, and yet stored only 1/2000th the amount of data!"

It really is amazing the progress I've seen in the past two and a half decades in computers and especially in the miniaturization of data storage. This comment reminded me of a fun exhibit of Lileks. This page is about a super-duper new computer delivered to Amtrak in 1972. Note the last sentence: "Remember: your iPod has more storage capacity than everything in this room."

Gus Van Horn said...

Heh! That last sentence wasn't meant that way, but it could be taken as a humorous way to slam the three human beings in that room as being dim wits.