From cuniform to flash - a history of storage (photos)

From cuniform to flash - a history of storage (photos)

Summary: Here's a look at how humans have dealt with storage issues from the beginning of recorded history.

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TOPICS: Storage, Hardware
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  • Hard disk
    The mainstay of modern computing, the hard disk was invented in 1956 by IBM and hasn't stopped spinning since.

    The picture shows six form factors of hard disk, from 8-inch down to 1-inch, and represents the history of the device from the late 1970s through to today. The 8-inch drives had capacities between 5MB and 30MB; the most capacious single 3.5-inch unit today has 3TB.

    Although most people know of Moore's Law — the number of devices in an area of silicon will double every two years — the capacity of hard disks has been outpacing that rate of improvement. One of the biggest advances was the discovery of the giant magnetoresistive effect, a piece of quantum physics that went from discovery in 1988 to market in 1998 — and earned its discoverers the Nobel Prize in 2007.

    Credit: Paul R Potts/Wiki Commons

  • Flash memory
    It is the biggest real threat to hard disks — and the fundamental technology that's turned our pockets and handbags into portable datacentres. Flash memory was invented by Toshiba in 1980, and because it is purely semiconductor-based, it has benefited from Moore's Law ever since.

    With no moving parts and low power requirements, it has been locked in battle with hard disks for dominance in PCs and larger installations: however, as hard disks' cost and performance continues to improve faster than that of flash, the battle's going to be a long one.

    This particular unit, rescued from the ZDNet UK editor's mobile phone, costs around £17 and stores around 16 billion times as much data as the same area of cuneiform.

    It is, however, unlikely to survive for more than 5,000 years.

    How old is your storage? Let us know in the comments.

    Photo credit: Rupert Goodwins

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Topics: Storage, Hardware

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16 comments
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  • I know I'm dating myself but you forgot...

    Core memory (as in non-volital ferrite core) and the for runners of ROM, TROS (Transformer Read Only Storage) and CROS (Capacitive Read Only Storage).
    Scubajrr
    • RE: From cuniform to flash - a history of storage (photos)

      @Scubajrr
      Floppies! And also left out piezo-wire memory, not to forget battery-backed static RAM.
      kenift
  • I'll date myself, too. The first class I ever took

    on data processing required us to provide our names and other data--On punch cards. Our stacks of punched cards were over an inch thick, if I remember it right.<br><br>The college I attended didn't have its own computer, and instead bought time on a huge mainframe owned by a construction contractor.
    clfitz
    • RE: From cuniform to flash - a history of storage (photos)

      @clfitz

      ...let's not forget punch tape.
      rparker2757
  • I remember reading about flash memory early on...

    ...and the discussed applications were mainly about computers that could be turned off and back on without having to be rebooted. Nobody (that I know) forsaw uses in cameras, phones, and music players.
    rynning
  • RE: From cuniform to flash - a history of storage (photos)

    C'mon now who doesn't remember Edison's pressed wax cylinders?
    GPrince
  • Core memory was invented by An Wang

    he was the founder of the Wang corporation. He also pioneered word processing machine and mini computers which were predecessors of PCs. My first programming job was with Wang. (That dates me also.)
    mark16_15@...
  • RE: From cuniform to flash - a history of storage (photos)

    You left out hand-copied parchment manuscripts, as well as cave paintings and, oh yeah! The human brain! Preservation of knowledge by oral tradition, in addition to predating cuniform, is still in use and probably always will be.
    Ginevra
    • True enough ...

      @Ginevra ... but oral tradition is the most error-prone of the lot. Each successive technology is substantially less error prone than the last. Each technology allows greater data density as well. However, as the data density increases, the more sophisticated the technology needed to extract the data. Without electricity, for instance, the data becomes inaccessible.
      M Wagner
  • A great piece. Lots of intermediate technology ...

    ... was left out though. I am a little surprised that no mention was made of CD/DVD technology - or emerging/experimental technologies (crystal holographics) or technologies which never took off - remember bubble memory?

    I'd like to see this covered in a little more detail and followed up by some realistic expectations for the future.

    Also, one should not neglect the problems associated with needing to move data from older to newer technologies to keep up with preservation of data over short time-spans.

    That cuniform tablet maybe 5,000 years old but the data on it is unreadable and it is meaningless in the present context.

    In order to preserve indefinitely data created today, it must be replicated and moved from one medium to another almost as quickly as it is created.
    M Wagner
    • RE: From cuniform to flash - a history of storage (photos)

      @mwagner@... It's not unreadable; you just have to have the necessary graduate education.
      lynnkauppi2
  • RE: - From CUNIFORM to Flash - USE SPELLCHECKER!

    Shame on whoever wrote the Headline for this article. Cuniform is incorrect, try Cuneiform!

    Sloppy editing, but at least easier to correct that correcting it on the cave wall!
    sdlecover
  • RE: From cuniform to flash - a history of storage (photos)

    you forgot to mention the chinese printing system
    gundam_0083
  • As the article says, Johannes Gutenberg's printing press

    was, of course,a vital element in the development of information storage ?in the West?, but block printing had been used in China to print on cloth more than a millennium earlier and printing on paper preceeded Gutenberg's efforts by at least eight hundred years. Movable type, using porcelain fonts, was invented in China by around 1040, and wooden fonts, which were more durable, were used in the 13th century. By this time, however, metal fonts had already begun to be used in Korea. Sad that nothing of this appears here, thus reinforcing the impression that many [b][i]ZDNet[/i][/b] readers seem to have that Asians are not good at innovation....

    Henri
    mhenriday
  • Mis-information about Drums

    Drums were more the forerunner of core than disks, that is, in the storage heirarchy they replaced Williams Tubes etc, and were in turn replaced by cores. Drums preceded Disks, as did Magnetic Tape and Magnetic Wire recording, but the three technologies occupy different places in the storage heirarchy. In the heirarchy sense, it is over reaching to describe any of them as the forerunner of disk storage.
    tgardner
  • RE: From cuniform to flash - a history of storage (photos)

    Apart from my computer's hard drive, my major storage technology has been around for 2000 years: it's called a book.
    lynnkauppi2