I came across the video above today. It is a IBM documentary film about the development of the disk drive. This effort began in 1952 in San Jose, CA. The original film strip was made in the mid 1950s. The story tells how the IBM RAMAC that was introduced in 1956 was developed.
RAMAC stood for “Random Access Method of Accounting and Control”. The RAMAC 350 stored a ‘massive’ 5 million characters across the internal fifty 24″ disks. The entire unit weighed in at about 1 ton.
So in about 60 years the technology has
- increased in capacity from 5MB to 8TB (grown by 160000000%)
- shrunk in volume from 118320 cubic inches to less than 24 cubic inches (shrunk to 0.02% of original volume)
- reduced in weight from 2000 to 1.4 pounds (0.07% of original weight)
- been discounted from a $27,007 (in 2015 equivalent dollars) per month lease to a $319.97 purchase from amazon (purchase is now 1.19% of the month lease)
I like Game of Thrones. I am also a bit of a computer nerd. My son showed me this video yesterday that brought both of those worlds together. Who would have thought that old computer hardware could be repurposed to play music?
Well actually, I heard something like this before in person. I worked for TRW Transportations Systems back in the early 1970’s. I remember in our computer room at the Clear Lake office there was a minicomputer equipped with a IBM 2315 compatible disk drive (A drive unit that accepted 14 inch 1MB removable disk cartridges in a plastic container as pictured above). One of the creative programmers had written a program that would play “She’s Coming Around the Mountain” by controlling the arm with the read/write heads.
The arm had to traverse between 5 and 6 inches quickly to access the tracks containing the data. To achieve this a large voice coil actuator would move the arm with the heads to a designated track on the disk. This required a considerable force to move the heads quickly enough. The movement made enough noise that a ‘tune’ could be played. The unit was mounted in a standard five foot tall 19 inch rack and if the song was played, the force would be enough to visibly shake the rack containing the drive and minicomputer.
I saw this article (“5D – 360 TERABYTES IN A DISK THE SIZE OF A COIN“) this morning and thought that the advance described was significant. Not only the storage capacity significant, but the predicted ‘shelf life’ of 13.8 billion years at room temperature certainly offers incredible archival storage ability. This advancement in data storage was made by scientists at the University of Southampton Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC).
The ORC developed what they call a 5D process that allows a femtosecond laser to read and write data. Data is written in three layers of nanostructure dots separated by only 5 micrometers. These nanostructures change the way light passes through the glass, modifying it’s polarization. The data can then be read by an optical sensor coupled with a polarizer.
Obviously this is not a device you are able to order today and connect up to your computer. This does speak to the growing need for backup of large data sets and to long term storage needs. ORC is currently seeking commercial partners to further develop this technology and bring products to market.