A new toy -- 01/11/07

This is my new toy...
It's a Maxtor Mini external (USB) 60 gigabyte disk drive.

My main idea in buying it was to be able to use it for data backup purposes (without having to burn dozens of CDs). It was on sale at Staples for sixty bucks.

I find the advances in data storage technology to be mind-boggling.

Remember, I learned to program in the days of punch cards.

The disk drive celebrated its 50th birthday this past September. Yes, IBM (of course) made the first one - the IBM 350 Disk StorageUnit for the IBM 305 RAMAC system (one of the last vacuum tube computers). The 350 disk drive was five feet wide, five feet eight inches high, and 29 inches deep. It used stack of fifty spinning magnetic disks and could store a total of five million characters (which were only seven bits long).

The cost? About $35,000. No, not to purchase it... that was the cost of a one year lease.

I've babbled on a bit here once before about the IBM 3330 and 3340 disk drives -- units the size of washing machines. When I was a computer operator for a university we had an IBM system 370/158 mainframe -- with two and a half megabytes of main memory -- and eight disk drives, each holding 100 million characters of information -- just imagine, eight hundred megabytes of data available online. (And one of those units would have cost a customer half of what one of the old 350s -- half the price, twenty times the capacity.)

IBM also had the first floppy drive -- the 8 inch floppy disk was invented to provide a means of loading microcode to control the 3330 drives -- but people immediately began to think of uses for it. It led to the idea of key-to-disk, where keypunchers, instead of punching out physical cards, would use machines that wrote the data onto floppy disks (which were much easier to carry around than boxes of hundreds or thousands of punched cards... and the data on the floppies would spill out or get jumbled out of sequence). The first programs I wrote for a "microprocessor" were for a Cromemco running under the CP/M operating system... using an 8 inch floppy for program and data storage.

Seagate made the first hard drive for PCs, five megabytes of capacity. IBM held off until the PC-XT model with a ten megabyte hard drive.

At some point back in the late 1980s I recall reading in some computer magazine (Datamation perhaps?) that the amount of data that large corporations had online on their banks of hard drives had gotten to be so huge that they estimated that there were ten or twelve companies that each had more than a terabyte of data.

Hitachi has recently announced a one terabyte hard drive for PCs. It will be available later this quarter at a suggested retail price of $399. (That's less than forty cents per gigabyte.) Seagate is expected to have a competing model out very soon. That's one trillion bytes of data. One million megabytes.

I wonder how long it will take before we will complain about having only a mere terabyte of storage.

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