Data-Storage Revolution among Century's Great Advances

By Kellner, Mark A. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 18, 1999 | Go to article overview

Data-Storage Revolution among Century's Great Advances


Kellner, Mark A., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The invention of movable type and the microchip were recently identified by a group of business leaders as being among the greatest developments of the soon-ending century. One gave us reams of information in easy-to-afford books; the other changed the way we create and use information.

I have my own category of devices to nominate for the "second string" of great inventions. I'm speaking of data storage, which will become increasingly important as time goes by.

The modern hard disk drive is a little over 50 years old. When it was invented by IBM Corp., it was designed to store data on huge mainframe computers, and the price corresponded with its importance. Indeed, the early personal computers either lacked fixed storage altogether, or came with hard disks as expensive as the computers themselves.

In 1983, for example, you could expect to pay in the four figures for a 10-megabyte hard disk drive. Today, you can find drives with 600 times that capacity for $159.

On the heels of the hard drive - first for mainframes, and then for desktop systems - came various kinds of tape storage, followed by removable hard disk cartridges. In the removable category, drives of 250 megabytes, 1 gigabyte and 4 gigabytes aren't unheard of, and higher capacity removables will surely hit the market soon.

Many of us have a removable cartridge drive, such as a Zip or Jaz from Iomega, installed as standard equipment on our PCs and Macs.

Perhaps the most impressive area of data storage in recent years has been the advent of recordable and rewritable CD-ROM discs. While capacity tends to max out at around 650 megabytes, the CDs are easier to carry, duplicate and distribute than removable media, and can be read by most CD-ROM drives around today.

One group I know put the better part of 30 years' worth of publications, newsletters, books and other materials produced by one organization onto five CD-ROMs. If printed and shipped on paper, the volume would be immense.

All this came to mind the other day as I finished a project that involved more than 32,000 words and nearly 130 pages.

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