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A Brief History of Data Storage

History of Data Storage

A Brief History of Data Storage

The History of Data Storage from Magnetic Tape to the Cloud

Data storage solutions have drastically changed over the last one hundred years or so. From magnetic tape to the cloud everything, here’s a quick journey through the history of data storage and how we’ve adapted as technology has changed.



In 1928, a German engineer named Fritz Pfleumer requested a patent for magnetic tape, which itself was an invention based on a magnetic wire recording. Magnetic tape completely changed the way humans communicate with one another by making broadcasting and recording possible. Before this date, broadcasts were always live.

It also revolutionized early computer development by making it possible to store data for long periods and recall it with ease.



In the 1940s, the first random-access digital storage device was invented by Freddie Williams and Tom Kilburn and now bears their respective names, the Williams-Kilburn tube. This method of data storage used a cathode ray tube to display a grid of dots, which produces a small static electricity charge. The charge was then read by a metal sheet in front of the display. Nearby electrical fields could impact the system, so it wasn’t very reliable and needed constant re-adjustment.

In 1949, a new data storage technique was invented called delay line memory. It was used in the earliest of computers and is now obsolete because it required sequential data access instead of random-access that is the standard in today’s modern computers.



In 1956, the world’s first computer featuring a hard disk drive was created by IBM. It featured 5MB of storage, weighed over a ton, and required a forklift to be moved anywhere. Hard drives store data on a magnetic disk that is then activated by a moving head. It’s how hard disk drives continue to operate today, albeit smaller, with more capacity, and much more efficiently.

Nowadays, you can get an HDD that fits in the space of your palm and holds a whopping 10TB of data.



The 1970s were a rapidly evolving time in data storage. In 1970, bubble memory was developed to store data on thin magnetic film.

In 1971, IBM started development of the first floppy disk, an eight-inch magnetic film that was encased in protective plastic. That design was iterated on for the 1975 introduction of the 5.25″ floppy disk.



The 1980s saw the first introduction of the CD as a form of data storage. The CD revolutionized data storage because it used light to record and replay music. From the development of the CD came the CD-ROM and eventually the DVD and Blu-Ray in later years.



Flash drives came about in 1994 as a way to store data in digital cameras. Their use eventually spread to other applications and ultimately, the SD card sprouted from its flash drive roots. Now we have solid state storage that is a form of a flash drive in most computers across the globe.



Today, millions of companies across the globe trust data centers for their cloud storage implementations. Cloud storage features redundancies and near-infinite scalability, so it makes it easier for companies to grow and shrink depending on their own economic needs.