By Cory Doctorow at 12:00 am Tue, Jan 17, 2012
This short, unsourced video contains 100 percent of your daily allowance of nostalgic paper-tape, punchcard and patch-panel techno-nostalgia.
Classic old computers and machines
Anybody know what the funky clunky thing shown at the end is? The one attacking a stack of platters of some kind.
Probably a hard drive, with a capacity of nearly 1 megabyte!
I was thinking it was storage of some kind, but it is all exposed looking so I figured it wasn’t magnetic. Maybe it works as a big spinning punch card?
Given the size, it could probably ignore anything smaller than a bumblebee without blinking.
I think it is behind some clear curved wall, glass? In the bad old days, people forget, hard drives had removable data packs.
It is the IBM RAMAC disk drive. Considering the whole thing stored on the order of 5-10MB, the density wasn’t all that great.
I recall finding a image of such a drive being delivered to a Norwegian computing facility, by way of a DC-3 and a forklift, some time in the 60s. I think it had the staggering, for the time, capacity of 10MB.
It might have been the IBM 305 RAMAC being delivered to Freia, the chocolate factory.
The capacity was not the staggering part, the random access was. a 2400′ magtape at 1600BPI easily dwarfed it. But it made a hell of a difference in terms of turnaround time on things like inventory control – which was what they were often used for.
Note that the disk was tightly connected to the computer it was sold with, as a kind of half-way between the IBM unit-record equipment (card sorter, card calculator, tabulator, accounting machines, etcetera) and computing.
I recall the CPU architecture as being pretty zany.
Looks like this sort of thing.
here we go, courtesy of wikipedia:
Well crap, that was already posted…
RAMAC 305 or similar. It was IBM’s first hard disk drive, storing 5 megabytes, which was a lot of data for 1956.
Suddenly I want two new toys- an iPad app for flipping switches like the panel at :05, and a USB paper tape drive.
A Altair 8800 emulator perhaps?
Interestingly, Microsofts first product was a paper tape delivered Basic interpreter/compiler for said computer.
Did somebody say Altair 8800 emulator?
The first scene looks more like the mighty Wurlitzer organ.
Thank goodness we as a planet have reached the absolute pinnacle of human knowledge and machine capability and will not have to worry about being made fun of by future tech-savvy generations
Thank goodness our future tech-savvy grandchildren will make fun of us.
Exactly. I know this may sound blasphemous, but even the mighty iPhone will look naive and primitive in just a few years. The Walkman of the 2010’s that we couldn’t live without.
Looks like an IBM Disk File. 50 platters and only one pair of heads! Total capacity 5MB.
Best line ever, from the Wikipedia entry:“This first ever disk drive was initially cancelled by the IBM Board of Directors because of its threat to the IBM punch card business….”
“Labcoat priests” in those pre-enlightenment Dark Ages on tech. That music could be fantastic for productivity, although perhaps only for building candy steam trains.
on the topic of drives:
looks like it could double as a warp drive component or something…
I like the caution sticker. I wonder if anyone got a hernia lifting it inappropriately.
I’m going to put the biggest Caution sticker I can manage onto my 4g/4GB archaic thumb drive.
Based on the applications being discussed (e.g. “fire support”), the context of this video is a discussion of early military computers, promising to streamline and automate the business of killing. Well, Mission Accomplished!
Whatever happened to lab coats?
You can wear them in your office if you wish. After all, you’re operating a machine that’s literally millions of times more powerful than the ones these fine gentlemen were rocking, so you should probably have the right equipment.
I’ll bet half of those programs are linear programming algorithms.
Nothing says “the future!” like syncopated marimba.
If you’re ever in the California Bay Area (Mountain View to be specific) I highly recommend visiting the Computer History Museum, where you can see these behemoths in person:
I think the one guy was downloading porn on paper tape. “When I was your age, our pr0n was delivered in 8-pixel-wide strips that we had to paste together. We got paper cuts on our junk like you would not _believe, and we were *thankful* for it!”
Not that much worse than Super 8.
The computers in this video — MOBIDIC, BASICPAC, and COMPAC — were all part of the Army Signal Corp’s FIELDATA program. FIELDATA was the predecessor to ASCII. It was designed (along with MOBIDIC) at the Evans Signal Lab, in Belmar, New Jersey. As it happens, that laboratory in the 1990s closed and the campus became a museum called the InfoAge Science History Learning Center. Among other exhibits, it contains a computer museum, where there’s even a small piece of a MOBIDIC on display. The museum also hosts the Vintage Computer Festival East. Its next edition is May 5-6 — learn more about http://www.vintage.org/2012/east/.
We once had programs which would draw things (usually large letters) using the holes on punched paper tape as ‘pixels’
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