IBM 3340 “Winchester” disk drive
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    Journey to the past – the data storage milestones

    A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – always. The same applies to technological progress – It begins with the simplest solutions, if you look at it in terms of time.

    Take a look at the inventions which have become the starting point for present giant data centers. They were only the drop in the bucket, but remember, progress is a continuous process. It has continued, it is still ongoing and it will likely continue uninterrupted. Here is a glimpse at data storage milestones:


    The first magnetic recording introduced by the Danish engineer at the Universal Exhibition in Paris.

    Telegrafon [source]

    First HDD – the IBM 350 Disk File – invented by Reynold Johnson. This 24-incher was introduced with the IBM 305 RAMAC computer. It had 50 platters (sic) and was priced for about 10000$/GB.

    IBM 350 [source]

    IBM 1301 Disc Storage Unit – introduced the usage of head for each data surface. Every head has had self acting air bearings.

    IBM 1301 Disc Storage Unit [source]

    The IBM 1311 Disk Storage. It was designed for use with several medium-scale business and scientific computers. The 1311 was about the size and shape of a top-loading washing machine and stored 2 million characters on a removable IBM 1316 disk pack.

    IBM 1311 Disk Storage Drive [source]

    The first publication about an idea for a computer network in “Intergalactic Computer Network” (J. C. R. Licklider, of Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN)). Those ideas contained almost everything that composes the contemporary Internet.

    Durable fiber reinforced plastic 19-inch rack mount case was patented by ECS Composites and became widely used in military and commercial applications for electronic deployment and operation.

    Chassis Plans 19″ Rack [source]

    The first message sent via ARPANET.


    1970 – 1975
    The Burroughs On-Line Disk File System – Burroughs releases a file system which stores over 48 million characters (approximately 48MB). It used large platters that have the rotational mass of almost 38lbs – it was really enormous. What is the most fascinating, the discs had to be equipped with electric brakes to stop the platters dispel to almost 3600RPM. More: PDF


    IBM introduced the IBM 3340 “Winchester” disk drive – it was the first significant commercial use of low mass and low load heads with lubricated media.

    IBM 3340 “Winchester” disk drive [source]

    The first thin film recording heads from IBM. This invention has allowed storing bigger amount of data in less amount of space. It also reduced costs and gave higher performance for users.

    Thin film recording heads [source]

    The first 5.25-inch drive with capacity of 5MB. It was the beginning of the PC era.

    2.5 and 5.25-inch drive [source]


    The first list server hosted on an IBM VM mainframe over BITNET.

    The IBM VM Machine [source]


    Rodine issues a 10MB 3.25 inch hard disk. This is still the form factor of today.

    3.25 inch hard disk []

    PrarieTek releases the first 2.5 20MB hard disk. 2.5 inch is the form factor of today’s notebook HDDs.

    2.5 inch hard disk [source]

    Integrated Peripherals shows its first 1.8 inch hard disk. 1991 was also a day of NeXTCube – the first web server

    NeXTCube, first web server [source]

    The first rack-mountable server from Compaq.

    ProLiant, first Rack-Mountable servers [source]

    Google’s first server – Sun Ultra 2. It had dual 200Mhz CPUs and 256MB of RAM . It was located at Stanford University. Thi sounds funny when we think about the present 450,000 Google servers in datacenters around the world.

    The first Google server – Sun Ultra II [source]

    1999 – 2011

    Evolution of SSDs and HDDs, Cloud Computing, portable storage devices, microprocessor chips and many many other incredible inventions.


    Will there be biological computers and data centers? From time to time we can hear rumors about DNA computing, biochemistry and molecular biology used in computer technologies. This would be incredible from the standpoint of technology and perhaprs bioethics. Imagine, what if you would like to make a “format C:” of your live HDD? There are many alternative possibilities


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