Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

April, 2008

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    History of Data Storage

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    Thanks to a link from Leigh Ann Sudol's blog I found this set of images and descriptions of some early computer data storage devices. I confess to having some old punch cards and I think some old magnetic tapes in the attic. I used punch paper tape as well. Yes I'm that old.

    I try not to be too much about the "in my day" but I can't help but tell students how far we have come in how little time. Take the picture of the first hard drive that was over a gig of storage for example.

    As they describe it "the IBM 3380 in 1980 (it could store 2.52 GB). It was the size of a refrigerator, weighed 550 pounds (250 kg), and the price when it was introduced ranged from $81,000 to $142,400." Now compare that to the 4 GB SDHC card I have that is smaller than a quarter and can practically be given away as a party favor. That's in less than 28 years. Where will we be in 28 more years?

    The implications of all this are often taken for granted. When one had only a few megabytes of storage (my first computer in school had 5 Mb on two drives) one had to think very carefully about what to store and how to store it. Today we blithely download files that are multiple gigabytes in size just in case we may want them later. Or we store thousands of songs just because we can and we may want to listen to them sometime. Planning ahead seems to have gone away. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? We're getting to the point where we need search engines to find things on our own computers. How long can this go on? Something to think about.

    In the mean time, if you have a chance take a look at how far we have come. And also take a look at the other computer history links I posted recently.

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