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History of computer data storage devices

Posted by Hemprasad Y. Badgujar on August 4, 2014

 History of computer data storage devices

Humankind has always tried to find ways to store information. In today s modern age, people have become accustomed to technological terminology, such as CD-ROM, USB Key, and DVD. Floppy disks and cassette tapes have been forgetting except for the most nostalgic. Subsequent generations have simply forgotten about the technology that helped evolve the efficient computer storage systems we all use everyday. As time humanity continues to push the envelope of innovation to create new possibilities.

1725 Punch cards () :The oldest known form of data storage, the punch card, was created by Basile Bouchon in 1725. The punch card is a perforated paper loop used to store patterns rather than actual data. In fact, punch cards were used to store settings for various machines and had a capacity of 960 bits.

Punch card Fortran program


1846 Punched tape -Punched tape was first used in 1846 by inventor of the fax machine, Alexander Bain. Punch tape consists of a long strip of paper in which holes are punched to store data. Each row on the strip represents a single character, yet considerably more data can be stored by creating a fanfold. When folded, punch tape can store up to a few dozen kilobytes—much more data than punch cards.



1928 Magnetic TapebFritz Pfleumer, a German engineer, patented magnetic tape in 1928. He based his invention off Vlademar Poulsen’s magnetic wire.
1932 Magnetic DrumG. Taushek, an Austrian innovator, invented the magnetic drum in 1932. He based his invention off a discovery credited to Fritz Pfleumer.

Selectron tubes (1946)

In 1946 RCA began developing the Selectron tube—an early form of random access storage that was never produced in a commercially viable form. The original Selectron tube measured 10 inches and could store 4096 bits but was expensive to build and therefore replaced in the market by the widely available core memory.

1946 Williams TubeProfessor Fredrick C. Williams and his colleagues developed the first random access computer memory at the University of Manchester located in the United Kingdom. He used a series of electrostatic cathode-ray tubes for digital storage. A storage of 1024 bits of information was successfully implemented in 1948.
Selectron TubeIn 1948, The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) developed the Selectron tube, an early form of computer memory, which resembled the Williams-Kilburn design.
Selectron tube
1949 Delay Line MemoryThe delay line memory consists of imparting an information pattern into a delay path. A closed loop forms to allow for the recirculation of information if the end of the delay path connects to the beginning through amplifying and time circuits. A delay line memory functions similar to inputting a repeating telephone number from the directory until an individual dials the number.
Magnetic CoreA magnetic core memory, also known as a ferrite-core memory, uses small magnetic rings made of ceramic to store information from the polarity to the magnetic field it contains.
1956 Hard diskA hard disk implements rotating platters, which stores and retrieves bits of digital information from a flat magnetic surface.


1963 Music tapePhilips introduced the compact audio cassette in 1963. Philips originally intended to use the audio cassette for dictation machines; however, it became a popular method for distributing prerecorded music. In 1979, Sony’s Walkman helped transformed the use of the audio cassette tape, which became widely used and popular.

1965 Compact cassette :The Compact Cassette was introduced by Philips in 1963 as a type of magnetic tape, although it didn’t gain popularity until the 1970s. A typical 90-minute cassette could store close to 700kB to 1MB of data per side of the tape. Compact Cassettes were used to store data in a few computers and remained popular until the late 1980s. 


1966 DRAM (PDF)In 1966, Robert H. Dennard invented DRAM cells. Dynamic Random Access Memory technology (DRAM), or memory cells that contained one transistor. DRAM cells store bits of information as an electrical charge in a circuit. DRAM cells increased overall memory density.

1968 Twistor MemoryBell Labs developed Twistor memory by wrapping magnetic tape around a wire that conducts electrical current. Bell Labs used Twistor tape between 1968 to the mid-1970s before it was totally replaced by RAM chips.
1970 Bubble MemoryIn 1970, Andrew Bobeck invented the Bubble Memory, a thin magnetic film used to store one bit of data in small magnetized areas that look like bubbles. The development of the Twistor memory enabled him to create Bubble Memory.
1971 8″ FloppyIBM started its development of an inexpensive system geared towards loading microcode into the System/370 mainframes. As a result, the 8-inch floppy emerged. A floppy disk, a portable storage device made of magnetic film encased in plastic, made it easier and faster to store data.
1976 5.25″ FloppyAllan Shugart developed a the 5.25-inch floppy disk in 1976. Shugart developed a smaller floppy disk, because the 8-inch floppy was too large for standard desktop computers. The 5.25-inch floppy disk had a storage capacity of 110 kilobytes. The 5.25-inch floppy disks were a cheaper and faster alternative to its predecessor.
1980 CDDuring the 1960s, James T. Russel thought of using light to record and replay music. As a result, he invented the optical digital television recording and playback television in 1970; however, nobody took to his invention. In 1975, Philips representatives visited Russel at his lab. They paid Russel millions for him to develop the compact disc (CD). In 1980, Russel completed the project and presented it to Sony.
1981 3.5″ FloppyThe 3.5-inch floppy disk had significant advantages over its predecessors. It had a rigid metal cover that made it harder to damage the magnetic film inside.
1984 CD RomThe CD-ROM, also known as the Compact Disk Read-Only Memory, used the same physical format as the audio compact disks to store digital data. The CD-ROM encodes tiny pits of digital data into the lower surface of the plastic disc, which allowed for larger amounts of data to be stored.
1987 DATIn 1987, Sony introduced the Digital Audio Tape (DAT), a signal recording and playback machine. It resembled the audio cassette tape on the surface with a 4 millimeter magnetic tape enclosed into a protective shell.
1989 DDSIn 1989, Sony and Hewlett Packard introduced the Digital Data Storage (DDS) format to store and back up computer data on magnetic tape. The Digital Data Storage (DDS) format evolved from Digital Audio Tape (DAT) technology.
1990 MOD (PDF)The Magneto-Optical disc emerged onto the information technology field in 1990. This optical disc format used a combination of optical and magnetic technologies to store and retrieve digital data. A special magneto-optical drive is necessary to retrieve the data stored on these 3.5 to 5.25-inch discs.
1992 MiniDiscThe MiniDisk stored any kind of digital data; however, it was predominately used for audio. Sony introduced MiniDisk technology in 1991. In 1992, Philip’s introduced the Diigtal Compact Cassette System (DCC). MiniDisk was intended to replace the audio cassette tape before it eventually phased out in 1996.
1993 DLT (PDF)The Digital Equipment Corporation invented the Digital Linear Tape (DLT), an alternative to the magnetic tape technology used for computer storage.
1994 Compact FlashCompactFlash (CF), also known as “flash drives,” used flash memory in an enclosed disc to save digital data. CF devices are used in digital cameras and computers to store digital information.
ZipThe Zip drive became commonly used in 1994 to store digital files. It was a removable disk storage system introduced by Iomega.
1995 DVDDVD became the next generation of digital disc storage. DVD, a bigger and faster alternative to the compact disc, serves to store multimedia data.
SmartMediaToshiba launched the SmartMedia, a flash memory card, in the summer of 1995 to compete with MiniCard and SanDisk.
Phasewriter DualThe Phasewriter Dual (PD) was the first device that used phase-change technology to store digital data. Panasonic introduced the Phasewriter Dual device in 1995. It was replaced by the CD-ROM and DVD.
CD-RWThe Compact Disc Rewritable disc, a rewritable version of the CD-ROM, allows users to record digital data over previous data.
1997 Multimedia CardThe Multimedia Card (MMC) uses a flash memory card standard to house digital data. It was introduced by Siemen’s and SanDisk in 1997.
1999 MicrodriveA USB Flash Drive uses a NAND-type flash memory to store digital data. A USB Flash Drive plugs into the USP interface on standard computers.
SD CardThe Secure Digital (SD) flash memory format incorporates DRM encryption features that allow for faster file transfers. Standard SD cards measure 32 millimeters by 32 millimeters by 2.1 millimeters. A typical SD card stores digital media for a portable device.
2003 Blu Ray (PDF)Blu-Ray is the next generation of optical disc format used to store high definition video (HD) and high density storage. Blu-Ray received its name for the blue laser that allows it to store more data than a standard DVD. Its competitor is HD-DVD.
xD-Picture CardOlympus and Fujifilm introduced the xD-Picture Card in 2002, which are exclusively used for Olympus and Fujifilm digital cameras.
2004 WMV-HDThe Windows Media High Definition Video (WMV-HD) references high definition videos encoded with Microsoft Media Video nine codecs. WMV-D is compatible for computer systems running Windows Vista, Microsoft Windows XP. In addition, WMV-D is compatible with Xbox-360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3.
HD-DVDHigh-Density Digital Versatile Disc (HD-DVD), a digital optical media format, uses the same disc size as Blu-Ray. It is promoted by Toshiba, NEC, and Sanyo.
Holographic (PDF)The future of computer memory resides in holographic technology. Holographic memory can store digital data at high density inside crystals and photo-polymers. The advantage of holographic memory lies in its ability to store a volume of recording media, instead of just on the surface of discs. In addition, it enables a 3D aspect that allows a phenomenon known as Bragg volume to occur.
Cloud Backup SolutionsZetta’s cloud enables businesses to protect data using backup, recover from a disaster, and archive unused files using only a lightweight sofware client and Zetta’s bi-coastal datacenters. As storage hardware and internet bandwidth continue to develop, so will Zetta’s performance.

The future of data storage

The way we store information today has certainly evolved since the 1725 advent of data storage, and the evolution is certainly for the better. Like all forms of technology, mediums of data storage will continue to change, performing better and faster while smaller in size. Think a thumb drive is about as good as it gets? Read on for a glimpse of what you may eventually be storing your files in.

E. coli

Yup, it’s possible that we may one day store our precious memories in bacteria. Researchers in Hong Kong have discovered that a single gram of bacteria is capable of holding more information than a 900TB hard drive. Storing information in bacteria and other living organisms, a process called biostorage, is a growing field of interest for students at Hong Kong’s Chinese University, who are using E. coli to test the limits of data storage.

Research in 2007 by a group of Japanese researchers, reasoned that due to bacteria’s ability to constantly reproduce, a group of these organisms could hold information for thousands of years. Students in Hong Kong are building on this previous research and have discovered a way to condense data, store it by chunks in organisms and then map the DNA to easily find the information at a later time. Biocryptography, as the process is called, could mean a revolution in the storage of text, images, music and video, because not only can so much information be stored, but it’s also resistant to hacking. These researchers are testing E. coli and other types of bacteria to determine which work best for storage and access after encryption. Some bacteria are capable of surviving nuclear radiation, leading scientists to believe our information may eventually survive even the worst of disasters. While bacteria aren’t putting the hard drive industry out of business yet, that day may come.



A single Carbon Crystal, reduced one atom at a time by nanomachinery, can store up to 887,808 petabytes. Yeah, yeah, but how big is that? For comparison, 1 petabyte is equivalent to over 1billion megabytes, and eight years ago, our society recorded 2,200 petabytes of data. All of that data could fit into a single grain of sand. And suppose we use diamonds instead? One nanoscale diamond is capable of storing a lifetime of data for six billion people. What’s more, this information would exist after the end of the human race.


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