Four IT men

On the 50th anniversary of the hard disk, four of our favourite characters take a fond look back at how storage used to be. With apologies to the Four Yorkshiremen

We drop in on four IT leaders to discuss storage and other matters.

Linus Torvalds: Who would have thought, 50 years ago, we'd all be sitting here with 'ard disks small as our thumbnails, eh?

All: Aye, aye.

Michael Dell: Them days we were glad to have a 5-1/4 inch floppy disk drive on us Apple II.

Andy Grove: Right! With bent disks!

Michael Dell: Right!

Linus Torvalds: Without a drive!

Larry Ellison: Or interface!

Michael Dell: In a cracked case and all.

Linus Torvalds: Oh, we never used to have 5-1/4 floppy disks! We used to have to use rolled up 8-inch floppies!

Andy Grove: The best we could manage was to suck on a piece of ferrite.

Larry Ellison: But you know, we were happy in those days, although we had barely any storage.

Michael Dell: Because we had barely any storage!

Larry Ellison: Right!

Michael Dell: My old dad used to say to me: "Memory doesn't bring your files back, son!"

Linus Torvalds: He was right!

Michael Dell: Right!

Linus Torvalds: I was happier then and I had nothing! We used to make do typing 250 lines of machine code in with no storage, so that if we made a typo we had to reboot and start over.

Andy Grove: Machine code! You were lucky. We had to hard wire the boot loader on a diode matrix, and toggle the program in binary on t'switches

Larry Ellison: You were lucky to have a switches! We used to have to save us programs on a tape player connected by a DIN cable!

Michael Dell: Oh, we used to dream of having a DIN cable! Acoustic coupling, that's what we used. Turn up t'volume on the tape player and hope nobody sneezed.

Linus Torvalds: Well, when I say it was a tape lead, it were more a paper tape. With holes in.

Andy Grove: We were banned from making holes in our tape! We had to use punched cards from a deck we kept in an old cornflakes packet.

Larry Ellison: You were lucky to have a cornflakes packet! We had 150 data analysts, all running their programs from a single card cut from the back of a cardboard box.

Michael Dell: A cardboard box?

Larry Ellison: Aye!

Michael Dell: You were lucky! We typed in data for three months on ZX81 keyboards. We used to have to go up every morning, at six o'clock and scrub t'ZX81, go to work in Birmingham, 14 hours a day, week in, week out, for six pence a week, and when we got home, our marketing manager would slash us to sleep with his belt!

Andy Grove: Luxury! We used to have to log into an ICL mainframe at three o'clock in the morning, clean the mainframe, eat a handful of hot RS232 leads, work 20 hours a day in FORTRAN, for two pence a month, come home, and the CEO would beat us around the head and neck with a box of fanfold, if we were lucky!

Larry Ellison: Well, of course, we had it tough! We used to have to get up at midnight and lick the printer plattens clean with our tongues! We had to eat half a handful of mains connectors while they were plugged in, work 24 hours a day in JCL for four pence every six years, and when we got home, our CFO would slice us in two with sharpened teletypes.

Linus Torvalds: Right! I had to get up in the morning, at 10 o'clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed, eat a lump of cold poison, work 29 hours a day programming Windows and pay Bill Gates for permission to run his own software, and when we got home, Monkey Boy would kill us and dance about on our graves, singing Developers!

Michael Dell: And you try to tell the young people of today that, and they won't believe you!

All: No, no they won't!