Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thinks That Make You Realize You're Old

I'm the ISO-14001 guy at work which means I get to deal with environmental related things.  Part of that is dealing with our recycling and we try to recycled alot of things.  Part of our business is software related which means we have alot of computer related stuff.  In many cases, old computer related stuff.  As I was looking at our electronics scrap table, I saw a stack of these and of course it made me think back to older days.
In 1967, IBM needed a way to load microcode into their computers.  At that time code was stored in the more volatile system memory, so if the system was shut down the memory was lost which meant you had to reload it.  IBM also wanted a way that they could send software updates out to their customers.  The first attempt was tape and then they developed an 8" disk called a memory disk.  It could hold 80 kilobytes of data.  This disk was released commercially in 1971.

The person who developed this disk would leave IBM and help Memorex release the first read/write floppy drive in 1972.  IBM would release theirs a year later.  The first microcomputer tried to use floppy drives but in many cases they were more expensive than the computer itself, so cassette tapes were used.  Since my dad worked for Burroughs/Unisys and would take me into work on occasion, I vaguely remember these disks.

The more familiar to me 5 1/4" floppy disk was developed in 1976 and started to get used with the microcomputers at the time.  Eventually this format would take over the 8" format.  In 1978, Apple introduced a 5 1/4" drive for it's Apple II computer, it could could store 113 kilobytes of data.  To put this in perspective, it would take 50 of those disks to store the full sized image above. These early drives were single sided and a double sided version came out in 1978.

The 3.5" disk shown above didn't come out until the early 80's.  And it underwent a simliar evolution until the standard was the 1.44MB disk.  Eventually, that would be replaced by the read-write CD ROMS and now we have various memory sticks and "the cloud".  And now, it's hard to imagine when the floppy was king.

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