This photo has been floating around the Interwebs for a few years, but it's new to us, so perhaps it's new to you as well. Since the image involves both an old Pan American Airways plane and a big piece of hardware, it piqued our curiosity.
As the much-forwarded email we received yesterday asked, "Can you guess what they are loading into the aircraft?"
It's a hard disk drive back in 1956... with 5 MB of storage.
In September 1956 IBM launched the 305 RAMAC, the first 'SUPER' computer with a hard disk drive (HDD). The HDD weighed over a ton and stored a 'whopping' 5 MB of data.
Do you appreciate your 8 GB memory stick now?
Now, Telstar Logistics has been around the Internet for many moons, so at first we were reluctant to take this story at face value. That's why we fired up our Google terminal, and dove into the case. Much to our pleasant surprise, it seems the tale is true. According to Hoax Slayer:
The photograph is genuine, and the information in the message is factual. Another photograph of one of the disk storage units can be viewed on IBM's archives website, along with the following caption:
The IBM 350 Disk Storage Unit was rolled out in 1956 to be used with the IBM 305 RAMAC to provide storage capacities of five, 10, 15 or 20 million characters. It was configured with 50 magnetic disks containing 50,000 sectors, each of which held 100 alphanumeric characters.
Here's a closeup of the 350 Disk Storage Unit:
The Wikipedia provides some additional verification...
The IBM 350 was part of the IBM RAMAC 305, the computer that introduced disk storage technology to the world. IBM publicly announced the IBM 350 storage unit as a component of the RAMAC 305 and RAM 650 computer systems on September 13, 1956.RAMAC stood for "Random Access Method of Accounting and Control."
Its design was motivated by the need for real time accounting in business. The 350 stored 5 million 7-bit (6-bits plus 1 odd parity bit) characters (about 4.4 megabyte). It had fifty 24-inch (610 mm) diameter disks with 100 recording surfaces. Each surface had 100 tracks. The disks spun at 1200 RPM. Data transfer rate was 8,800 characters per second. Two independent access arms moved up and down to select a disk and in and out to select a recording track, all under servo control. A third arm was added as an option. Several improved models were added in the 1950s. The IBM RAMAC 305 system with 350 disk storage leased for $3,200 per month. [...]
Currie Munce, research vice president for Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (which has acquired IBM's storage business), stated in a Wall Street Journal interview that the RAMAC unit weighed over a ton, had to be moved around with forklifts, and was delivered via large cargo airplanes. According to Munce, the storage capacity of the drive could have been increased beyond five megabytes, but IBM's marketing department at that time was against a larger capacity drive, because they didn't know how to sell a product with more storage.
All of which is to say... yes, you really should think of this photo next time you stick a USB flash drive into your pocket!