60 years of storage innovation

Kicking off the storage revolution almost 60 years ago, IBM introduced the first computer disk storage system in 1956. This system was capable of storing up to five megabytes of data. The evolution of the storage industry means that today, we can store masses and masses of information on miniature devices, and terabytes of data on enterprise storage systems. The following slideshow documents the top 10 storage milestones since the creation of the first computer disk storage system in 1956 - and provides insight to how far storage has come since then. 

  • 1956 - IBM 350 Disk Storage - introduction of the first computer disk storage system. IBM introduced the world’s first computer disk storage system in 1956.  The IBM 350 Disk Storage was a major component of the IBM 305 RAMAC (Random Access Memory Accounting) system. It was used with the IBM 305 RAMAC to provide storage capacities of five, 10, 15 or 20 million characters. In less than a second, the IBM 350 RAMAC’s "random access" arm retrieved data stored on any of 50 spinning disks which contained 50,000 sectors and each of which held 100 alphanumeric characters. Its five megabytes could store a medium-resolution image of DaVinci’s Mona Lisa painting. Disk technology later became the industry's basic storage medium for online transaction processing.
  • 1962 - IBM 1311 Disk Storage Drive - first removable disk pack. The IBM 1311 Disk Storage Drive provided storage for 2 million characters. The 1311 used the IBM Disk Pack (later designated the IBM 1316 ), an interchangeable package containing six 14-inch-diameter disks in a four-inch stack, weighing 10 pounds (seen above in the man's left hand). Each disk surface contained 20 pie-shaped regions. Sectors were segments of track lying within a region, and were the smallest addressable unit, with a capacity of 100 characters. Average access time to any sector was 250 milliseconds, which could be reduced to 150 milliseconds with an optional direct-seek feature. The disks were rotated at 1500 rpm, tracks (50 to the inch) were recorded at up to 1025 bits per inch, and the usual head-to-surface spacing was 125 microinches. The ten recording surfaces provided in normal usage, a  storage capacity of 2 million characters, the equivalent of approximately 25,000 punched cards or a fifth of a reel of magnetic tape.
  • 1965 - the IBM 2314 Direct Access Storage Facility. Database and data communications applications requiring access to large amounts of information - such as airline reservations and online banking transactions - became economically feasible with the IBM 2314 Direct Access Storage Facility. The facility provided eight independently operating disk drives and a spare along with a control unit in one facility. Users of large-scale computer systems could attach enough 2314s to provide nearly 10 billion bytes of data storage. The access time and latency of the 2314 was the same as the older IBM 2311 but the 2314 offered double the data rate of 310,000 bytes per second.
  • 1971 – the Floppy diskette - introduction of new form factor. IBM introduces the industry's first flexible magnetic disk, or diskette. The "floppy disk" greatly increases the convenience of data handling. It becomes widely used as a basic storage medium for small systems.
  • 1973 - IBM 3340 Winchester - the first sealed assembly drive, became industry standard. Following a development effort that began in the summer of 1969, the IBM 3340 Direct Access Storage Facility was introduced in March 1973 with an advanced disk technology known as "Winchester." Two, three or four 3340 drives could be attached to the IBM System/370 Model 115 processor -- which had been announced concurrently with the 3340 -- providing a storage capacity of up to 280 million bytes.
  • 1980 - IBM 3380 Disk System - introduced the world’s first hard drive containing more than 1GB capacity. IBM introduced the world’s first hard drive containing more than 1GB capacity, the IBM 3380 Disk System in 1980.  It was half the physical size of the first hard disk drive (IBM RAMAC), weighed 250 kilograms and could store 2.53 GB. The IBM 3380 Direct Access Storage Device (DASD) gave customers the ability to store up to 2.52 billion characters of information, almost four times the amount of previous IBM storage devices.
  • 1984 - IBM 3480 Cartridge Tape System – cartridges became an industry standard. The 3480 Magnetic Tape Subsystem was a major milestone in IBM storage. Two radically new features incorporated into its design were shape and size: square tape cartridges replaced the traditional round tape reels and the overall footprint of the box was reduced. In addition, data storage density and speed were improved. Previously, the industry standard had been a 10.5-inch round tape reel that stored 160MB of data and had an uncompressed data rate of 1.25MB per second. The new 3480 used a 5.5-inch square cartridge, stored up to 200MB of data and executed at the rate of 3MB a second.
  • Previously, the industry standard had been a 10.5-inch round tape reel that stored 160MB of data and had an uncompressed data rate of 1.25MB per second. The new 3480 used a 5.5-inch square cartridge, stored up to 200MB of data and executed at the rate of 3MB a second. (The 3480's rectangular cartridge compared to a standard tape reel)

  • 1989 - IBM 3390 Direct Access Storage Device. There was enough data storage in IBM's 3390 Direct Access Storage Device in 1989 to keep 35 typists typing 100 words per minute, eight hours a day, for a century. Only one-third the size of IBM's then current DASD -- the 3380K (background) -- the 3390 could store 22.7 billion bytes or three times the capacity of the 3380K.
  • 2009 - IBM Information Archive. IBM Information Archive is a tiered storage archiving system that uses tape and disk storage technology -- using the more economical tape to manage "cold" data and the more dynamic flash and disk technology to manage "hot" data.  Information Archive lowers TCO, scales to 304TBs (equivalent of more than 6,000 Blu-Ray disks) and intelligently prioritises data. By incorporating tape for archiving "cold" data, users can save up to 95% in storage expenses compared to a disk-only system.
  • Peek into the Future - Storage Class Memory. Storage Class Memory (SCM) blurs the distinction between memory and storage by combing the benefits of a solid-state memory with the non-volatile archival capabilities and low cost of conventional hard-disk magnetic storage. This combination of high performance and low cost could usher in seminal changes across the entire memory/storage hierarchy from tiny mobile devices up to high-performance computing.  With a range of near-term and long-term experimental work in SCM, promising areas include:  Phase Change Memory that uses phase-change materials which alter their structure when heated and can switch between a conductive crystalline and a resistive amorphous form thereby providing the binary states necessary for memory; and racetrack memory, so named because the data "races" around the wire "track."  Racetrack memory could lead to solid state electronic devices – with no moving parts, and therefore more durable – capable of holding far more data in the same amount of space than is possible today, require much less power and generate much less heat, and be practically unbreakable.
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