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4 Awesome Videos about Early Data Storage

This week, we’re looking at the future of storage with virtualization, enterprise flash storage, and the implications of the cloud. Since we’re looking forward, it also makes sense to look back with these four awesome videos about how far data storage has come.


Memory of the Moon Lander (1962)

This documentary titled “Computer for Apollo” goes into remarkable detail about the manufacturing processes behind the Moon lander’s Command/Service Module (CSM), including how they built the famous rope memory module. It was among the most advanced devices in its day. Chief among the reasons was its data density. 

That thing had more than a half a mile of wire and stored over 65,000 individual pieces of information (23:58).

Highlight: Watching a small army handweave these memory modules. It’s way more interesting than it sounds. (20:34)

Check out the next video for a great 1950s explanation of this type of data storage.


Computing: 1950-Style (1961)

In that slow, steady narration style of the 1950s, this video takes you back to the (rather long) era in the history of computing when digital elements augmented punch card technology, but hadn’t taken over.

Highlight: The slide graphics that show exactly how magnetic core memory modules work, like the ones from the Apollo module. (11:25 to 15:00)


Punch Card Punch Lines with Bob Newhart (1970)

This was basically a 1970 guerrilla marketing bit for IBM’s launch of their 307 punch card system, and it probably requires a little context.

In this video, Bob Newhart takes a call from Herman Hollerith back in 1880, and turns him down.

The joke: Newhart pretending to turn down Hollerith is like Decca Records rejecting the Beatles.

Who was Herman Hollerith? The proto-founder of IBM.

In 1890, the U.S. Census Bureau counted the country’s population with a machine designed by former census employee Herman Hollerith. The previous census took 6 years to complete. Hollerith’s Electronic Tabulation System employed a punch-card technology that processed 0.53 cards per second, and counted the population in just a few weeks.

Hollerith founded the Tabulating Machine Company in 1896, which merged with International Time Recording Company, Bundy Manufacturing Company, and the Computing Scale Company in 1901 to form a new corporation called the Computing-Tabulating-Recording (CTR) Company, which eventually changed its name to International Business Machines — now commonly known as IBM.


Computer Chronicles: Hard Disk Storage (1985)

These are just fun to watch for the technology as much as the sweet mustaches and great suits.

If you can stomach the occasional flicker of what resembles a VCR gone awry, the Internet Archive has every single episode available to stream or download. The PBS series ran from 1983 until 2002.

With its enthusiastic hosts reviewing technologies and interviewing industry leaders during this key transitionary period, it really did end up chronicling the growth of personal and enterprise computing.

Highlight: “It seems like any serious PC user now has a hard disk.” (5:32)


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