Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Systems Librarian and Automation Review

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Systems Librarian and Automation Review

Article excerpt

[FIGURES HAVE BEEN OMITTED]

Downsizing doesn't happen just to automobiles. it will come as no surprise to readers of these pages that computer prices are falling as components become smaller and easier to make, and more people are building them.

That's an oversimplification, of course, especially with politics thrown into die equation. Nevertheless, the UM holds true.

Disk Drive Redux Just how true was brought home to us recently when we began investigating replacements for our washing machine disk drives, otherwise known as CDC 300MB monsters. They were very common just a few years ago. Geac, CLSL and Dataphase used diem, to name three vendors.

Larger operations using mainframes had vast disk drive "farms" that took up entire floors of buildings. Me field engineer lived on site. The law of averages guaranteed there would be a couple of disk drive crashes every day.

These "removable media" drives are actually bigger than washing machines. They make a lot of noise and set up an awful vibration. Starting one of these hulks sounds like the Starship Enterprise entering warp drive. When Bill, our field engineer, works on them, he mutters about dilithium crystals.

The CDCs draw quite a bit of electricity, too. We don't have the figures to back this up, but we seem to remember reading that the drives at our site draw about $100 worth of electricity per month, and that's at Pacific Northwest power rates, about five cents per kilowatt hour (4.74120 cents on our last bill).

We have a big power protection unit on our system. Whenever the power goes out, it protects Deep Thought But when the power comes back on, the protection device kicks in - not because of a surge from outside, but because the start-up draw from those big drives is enough to shut the power off completely. Our phones shut off when this happens, too. It can get really interesting around here (it happened three times last summer!).

We installed in 1983. Within a few months our vendor was selling a 330MB drive that was significantly smaller. It was a fixed disk type. There were no more $1,200 removable packs. If die drive crashed, you replaced the entire drive as one unit. About three of these drives would fit in die same space as die CDC machines.

We speculated at the time that Son of Deep thought could be placed in die space of one of our CDC drives, maybe even on top of one. Of course, that would be far into the future. Everyone thought that was quite amusing. Besides, they wanted to call our machine "Godot," since they kept waiting for it to come online. We said it would be in the fall, but we didn't say which fall. As it happened, we were only one year off. Compared to NASA, we didn't do badly at all.

Double Your Fun

We originally had two CDCs for a whopping 600MB of storage. Our vendor had bid us two 160MB drives, but through some maneuvering behind the scenes with the salesperson, we managed to convince them to sell us die larger capacity drives. That person said at die time, "Wow! That's a lot of space!" in his most incredulous manner. He wanted us to buy maybe one 300MI3 and one 160MB as a compromise. Finally, Elliot our partner in crime, just told him to shut up and sell us the drives.

By the time we were installed we had run out of space. Our vendor bought another 300MB at no charge to us. We went along for a few months but found even that wasn't enough. So our vendor cut us a deal. They bought half of a fourth 344MB drive. Naturally, we bought the other half.

At the time we were fond of stating, "You ought to double die space your vendor says you need." We were wrong. We should have quadrupled die space.

The newest drive had a greater capacity than the 300MB machines, and slightly more than the 330MB drives installed by a couple of our sister libraries nearby. Yet die new 344 was about half die size of the 330, and about a sixth the size of the 300MB drives. …

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