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Progress Marches On July 21, 2010

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Uncategorized.
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Today’s post is a guessing game. Can you guess what this image is of? Hint: The photo was taken in 1956.

This gigantic gizmo is the world’s first hard drive. It was invented as part of the world’s first supercomputer, the IBM 305 RAMAC, and it held a big old 5 megabytes of data . . . which in 1956 was pretty darn impressive!

In 1974, the computer that I first learned BASIC to use was a 16K machine — yes, you read that right, 16 kilobytes of RAM — that lined the walls of a room that was approximately 20 feet square. I had to enter my code on punch cards, and one typographical error, or one card out of its proper order, and I was frakked.

Now I have an 8GB flash drive that’s smaller than a cigarette lighter, smaller than a tube of lipstick. One of today’s musical greeting cards, the kind that plays a little tune when you open it, contains more computing power than there was in the entire world in 1960. And I feel so old. . . .

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