Thursday, October 27, 2005

Byte This

i met my first disk drive in 1965 when i worked as a computer operator, and then programmer, at kaiser aluminum in oakland, ca.

it was was an IBM 1405, a model first sold in 1960. it stored 20 megabytes. that is 20,000,000 characters, be they letters, numbers, punctuation, or unprintable. its cabinet was about 5 feet tall, almost that wide and three feet thick. it had 50 disks that rotated at 1800 rpm. each disk was about 30 inches across and about 1/4 inch thick. so the "drive" contains about 116,640 cubic inches.

in the picture below the drive on the right is from a pc that RD had when we met in 1989. a pc with one megabyte of memory and a Seagate ST-225 harddrive. it's capacity is 20 megabytes. it spins at 3600 rpm and was introduced 1984. the seagate drive is 5.5 inches by 8 inches by 1.5 inches, and so encloses 66 cubic inches.

the one on the left is from RD's g4 iBook. it is a Toshiba MK4025GAS which held 40 gigabytes, when it worked. each and every gigabyte held 1,024 megabytes of storage. the toshiba is 2.75 inches by 3.75 inches by .1875 inches, thus it's volume is 1.94 inches. ibm 1405 in 1960 stored 20 megabytes (20 million characters, eight bits per character) in a thing taking up about 116,640 cubic inches of space. thus about 171.5 bytes per cubic inch.

and a seagate drive in 1984 stored the same amount of data in 66 cubic inches. thus about 303,030 bytes per cubic inch.

now, this once working and probably outdated toshiba from maybe 2001 stores a whopping 2,048 times more data than the previous two examples, in a smaller space, resulting in about 20,000,000,000 bytes per cubic inch!

to recap:
1960---171.5 bytes/cubic inch
1984---303,030 bytes/cubic inch
2001---20,000,000,000 bytes/cubic inch

we're already at 2005. check the trend. by next year i expect space BACK for every bit of data i store. i want space credit.

Here's a story from RD about when the pirate and I first met, and how that computer was part of our affinity.
In late 1988 I had separated from my first husband, left grad school and moved back to California to be near my twin brother in Santa Cruz. My first husband and I did not have children so there weren't many things for us to fight for custody of. We were rather nomadic ascetics, having moved once a year for ten years (he called it artistic restlessness, I called it compulsive displacement, but I digress). We did not gather many things, but we did have one great photograph of Abbie Hoffman and Tim Leary, and we had a computer. I wanted the photograph and the PC. Oh there were many reasons why, but suffice to say that without me neither of those things would have been in our house. So, when I settled in California in 1988, my ex sent me those two cherished items, and we, as they say , parted amicably. In the mean time, I had met a delightful free-spirited and broken-hearted hippie who could talk science, politics and environment just the way I liked to. He had been a computer programmer while I was a still a teenager in high school in 1968, but he hadn't touched a computer in 20 years. When the PC showed up, he offered to hook it all up for me. I said, okay, that's great. We weren't living together at the time, so I went into my bedroom to go to sleep, and he went into the office to put it together. Hours and hours later, perhaps it was just before morning, he came into the bedroom and said, "your computer is set up. First I broke it, so it didn't work at all, then I figured out what I had done, fixed it, and now it's working fine." That's when I knew this man, the pirate, was my friend and partner, and it's been true for the past 17 years.

well. i didn't exactly break anything. i just lost DOS--disk operating system, like windows with closed drapes, no gui (graphical user interface), no mouse--and some other programs. i did have to learn some text commands. i was surprised to see that the organizational structure of a pc was very much the same as the last big computers i worked on in the 60's. the text commands to initiate and control programs were the equivalent of the little decks of ibm computer cards we used back then, which became little text files on disk.

No comments:

Post a Comment