A Brief History of Storage – Part 2. The Ascendancy of Online Storage.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”  — Albert Einstein

In Part 1, we left off with magnetic tape and the microprocessor revolution.  But as processing power increased, so too did the need for storage and backup.  Enter the hard drive.

It’s not that the hard drive wasn’t around before the mid ‘80s, it’s just that it looked like the picture below (as a frame of reference to size, think about two refrigerators) and it cost about $10 to store one megabyte. It was in 1983 that IBM introduced the PC/XT, and the hard drive became a component of virtually every computer sold thereafter.  And, hard drive backup became a reality.  But what good is a backup copy of data stored on a hard drive if the hard drive itself is corrupted?  Not much, so enter the next stage of storage development, the floppy disk.

Like the name would indicate, the original floppy disks were actually disks, and they were floppy.   By the late 1990s they had evolved into 3.5 inch diskettes, and could store a whopping 256 megabytes.  Backup and storage then, became a simple matter of downloading all of your data onto diskettes, and like the original punched card backups, finding a safe and secure place to store them.   We can now telescope a bit to the present, because the next steps happened so quickly (CD’s, thumb drives, et al) it seems like a blur.  And, it’s not so much the method of storage that became the issue, but rather what was being stored, and for whom.

As mentioned earlier, the microprocessor revolution made memory inexpensive and storage capacities virtually unlimited.  Yet, issues remained.  For example:

  1. The more storage space you have, the more you are likely to store, and the more you are likely to store, the more likely you are to jump out the window of a ten story building if your data is lost.
  2. The cheaper the cost of computing, the more hardware you are likely to own.
  3. The more processing power, the greater the capability to store more than just data; for example audio, music, movies and photos.
  4. As technology becomes a greater part of your life, so too does the need to easily access that which technology makes possible.

That leads to the current stage in the evolution of data storage: Online storage and backup, and not just for gigantic banks or corporations.  Just as computing power has come to the household, so has the ability to use “other peoples’ servers” a.k.a. “The Cloud.”  Now, capacity is not a factor, nor is convenient accessibility, shared files or synchronization between devices.  And, most importantly, is price.   Anyone can afford to tap into the revolution that is cloud computing.  Let’s see, lots of memory, remarkable intelligence and a cost that’s, well, peanuts compared to the value you get.  No wonder they call it ElephantDrive.



























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