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Computer Data Storage Through the Ages -- From Punch Cards to Blu-Ray

Mar 12, 2009, 22:04 (0 Talkback[s])

"IBM Punch Card
Data storage no longer grows on trees, but that hasn't always been the case. We have to set our DeLorean for the 18th century to witness the birth of punch cards, which consisted of hard card stock with punched holes to represent data. In 1881, Herman Hollerith, who would later form IBM, designed a paper punch machine to tabulate census date. It had taken the U.S. Census Bureau eight years to complete the 1880 census, but thanks to Hollerith's invention, that time was reduced to just one year. The format really came into its own as a data processing technology in the 1900s, and by 1937, IBM was churning out up to 10 million punch cards each day. The paper-based storage medium remained prominent up until the 1970s before giving way to magnetic tape.

"Paper Tape
Similar to punch cards, paper tape contained patterns of holes to represent recorded data. But unlike its rigid counterpart, rolls of paper tape could feed much more data in one continuous stream, and it was incredibly cheap to boot. The same couldn't be said for the hardware involved. 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. Yikes!

IBM Magnetic Tape
Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and magnetic tape all rose to prominence in the 1950s, and it was the latter that helped shape the recording industry. Magnetic tape also changed the computing landscape by making long-term storage of vasts amount of data possible. A single reel of the oxide coated half-inch tape could store as much information as 10,000 punch cards, and most commonly came in lengths measuring anywhere from 2400 to 4800 feet. 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. This helped prevent the media from ripping as it sped and up and slowed down."

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