Monthly Archives: January 2014

History of external data storage

I’ve been in IT for longer than anyone can remember (over 40 years), and I’ve seen some amazing progress in computer technology, especially in offline data storage.

Got my IT start in the US Marine Corps way back in 1969. My first real job was 3rd shift computer operator for Marine Corps Base – Kaneohe, Hawaii.

USMC DPP-10 Kaneohe, HawaiiDPP-10    Marine Corps Base – Kaneohe, Hawaii – 1971
That’s me standing under the sign
We are in front of a “mobile data center” ready to be deployed to the field

Let me describe how far the technology has come in the last 45 years.

My computer operator job was to run daily, weekly and monthly reports for the air wing of MCB-Kaneohe, , , it included all types of reports concerning personnel, aircraft, equipment, parts, etc. , , , normal reports like you would expect.

At this juncture we used 80-column cards to store information about a record. A “record” might be a jet aircraft or helicopter, a Marine pilot or fireman, or a piece of equipment. At the end of the month I had to sort the cards and print several detail reports for Marines to manage the business.

In one application called FSA (Fleet Stock Accounting), the owners of the data brought me some 50,000 cards every month of all the detail records of their equipment and parts inventory. They were stored in some 15-20 metal trays that held approx. 3,000 cards each.

Here is the point to my story – to sort 5 characters of the cards to prepare them to print an Equipment List sorted alphabetically it would take me over ten hours just to sort the card deck so I could then print the report, , , and the computer processing part to print the report took another 2-3 hours, , , that’s 12 to 14 hours just to print a detailed Equipment Report.

How long does it take today? Just a few seconds to initiate the report, maybe a few minutes to produce and print it, , , that is if you actually want the printed version.

Every end of month I would literally spend an entire weekend in our Data Center to create the monthly reports for this application.

External data storage has evolved considerably so I thought it might be fun to take a look at how it took place. I’ve actually worked with everything you will see in the discussion below.

The beginning
Paper is where it all started. Before computers everything was on paper. Do the images below look familiar?


The first computers used punch cards
The first was the 80-column card followed by a smaller 96-column card that allowed for smaller equipment and 20% more storage on a record.

storage_punched cards

At Kaneohe we used IBM equipment – the 1401 Computer System.

storage_IBM 1401 computer system

Punched card processing took lots of equipment to do very specific things like sorting, collating or merging card decks, interpreting and printing newly punched cards, etc. Lots of equipment and a very manual, tedious process, , , but it was light years ahead of pencil and paper.

storage_IBM punch card technology

Along came tape and “magnetic media”
At first, vendors like IBM simply added a tape drive to complement their card system like the 1401 processing environment below.


Do you remember the old tape libraries? Larger organizations literally had dedicated resources just to manage the tapes.

storage_tape library

Disk storage opens up new horizons in storage capacity, speed and reliability.
Initially there were removable disk packs that increased in size over time to hold more data. Then more versatile drives came along with considerable more storage and speed and built to be more sturdy.


The diskette era
Diskettes hit the scene with the IBM System/32 around 1976. This system used an 8-inch “floppy diskette” for backup and software portability. With the introduction of the minicomputer and emphasis on business applications software to run on them small and mid-size businesses could afford to computerize their business.


You can see the trend – smaller media with more storage capacity plus they  are becoming more damage proof with simpler read mechanisms as the technology evolves.

CD and ZIP drives expand storage
The need for more external storage increases quickly as computing power increases with the PC and more software applications become available. CDs and ZIP drives fill the need for a short time.

storage_CD and zip drives

The race is on
Newer applications include more data, images, video and audio, , , applications that literally devour disk space. The need for more storage space, faster access times, and portable media is the new era of computing storage. As technology improves, the advances in these areas move forward faster.

storage_flash drive and backup drivesFlash drives started out with 16MB, 32MB and 64MB when they were first introduced. Now you see flash drives no bigger than your thumbnail that hold upwards of 512GB and there are plans to put up to 2TB of data onto a flash drive in the near future.

External backup drives like the one shown above are already storing terabyte levels of data with enormous growth expected in this area in the future.

Let me put some of this into perspective for you. In 1979 I had a tour of IBM’s General Systems Division (GSD) Headquarters and Data Center in Atlanta, GA.

I’ll never forget a sign that was in the front part as you entered the Data Center. Behind the sign were rows upon rows of disk drives followed by rows and rows of tape drives. The floor that housed the Data Center was probably around 30,000 square feet and much of it held disk drives for data storage. The sign said, , ,

storage_16GBYou have to understand, , , 16GB was huge in those days, , , but there was no graphics or video to contend with so a gigabyte of textual data was quite a lot.

Today, I carry a 64GB flash drive the size of my thumbnail with me wherever I go and my laptop has far more computing power and functionality than all of the mainframes in that IBM Data Center. Amazing evolution of computing technology, , , plus it becomes more affordable all the time. A terabyte of data storage in 1979 would have cost you over $1 million, , , today about $75.00.

The next 10 years will be an amazing experience.

Three items you may be interested in

blue ribbonFrom time to time I run across products or services that I think my readers might be interested in.

Here are a few that are worth mentioning, , , items B and C I discovered just in time to create a special Christmas gift for my family.


A.  3 full days of free training on WordPress with Armand Morin – February 7, 8, 9, 2014.

GC_WordpressI use WordPress for all my web sites – primarily because of the ease of use, flexibility and the functionality. I highly recommend any IT manager become familiar with WordPress, , , if for no other reason to learn about some of the functionality it offers a company, department unit, or individual. There are two versions of WordPress – a paid version and a free version. I use the free version for my BLOG site ( and the paid version for my two business sites ( and

Armand Morin is an Internet marketing expert plus he is also a heavy technical guy who likes to program. He has built several plugins for WordPress to add functionality. Armand is going to deliver a FREE 3-day live class on WordPress on February 7-9. I promise it will be one of the most comprehensive classes on WordPress you will find anywhere because in his WebCamp classes he walks you through every step and shows you how to do what he talks about. He also explains why, , , very important.

Take a look at his information video to gain a better perspective and register at:

The schedule is organized nicely so you can sit in on whatever portion is important to you or your organization. Here it is:

WebCamp WordPress Schedule – February 7th, 8th and 9th 2014

Day One
WordPress Overview
WordPress Setup
WordPress Security
Must Security Plugins
Search Engine Optimization
WordPress SEO
Keyword Optimization

Day Two
Website Design
CSS Crash Course
WordPress Themes
Customizing Themes
Creating Your Own Themes
Using Child Themes
Advanced Page Customization

Day Three
WordPress Marketing Uses
Landing Pages
WordPress Optin Pages
WordPress Video and Audio
WordPress Video Sales Letters
WordPress Sales Letters
WordPress Webinars

Day-1 and Day-2 will probably be the best for most of us. Day-3 is primarily internet marketing oriented so I may skip this one and just watch parts of the first two days. I caution you that Armand is an Internet Marketer so he has things to sell but he uses an approach of teaching you how to do things to create interest, , , which is why I attend his classes. There is no obligation to purchase anything. I have always found his webinar classes to be full of helpful “how to” information and he is definitely an expert in his subject matter, both as an end user as well as a technical expert.

Plus, it’s FREE, , , so if you or someone on your staff needs to learn about WordPress, this class will be worth the time.

WebCamp WordPress Schedule – February 7th, 8th and 9th 2014

Learn more at


B.  Converting VHS tapes to digital movies

Elgato Video CaptureI have been wanting to convert many of our old VHS tapes to digital for many years, , , both to preserve them because eventually the tapes will be no good at all, , , and also to be able to use them for special projects once they are in digital format. I was assuming you either had to purchase a conversion box that would read the tapes and convert them or send them off to a conversion services company. In my research over the years, both options looked to be fairly expensive at more than $400.00 to do what I wanted to do.

In November I discovered the perfect device, bought one, and converted excerpts of over 50 VHS tapes dating from 1988-1992 to create a Christmas video to share with my family. It was a huge hit, probably because they were all in it and are now able to share movies of our parents and grandparents with their kids and grandchildren.

I purchased the device at, , , it is an Elgato Video Capture Device 10020840 and cost me $79.99. Not only was it inexpensive, , , it works like a charm and is very simple to use. Just hook the RCA audio and video cables into your VCR and the usb end into your PC and you are ready to go. Convert the entire tape to digital or just the excerpts you want to use, , , step by step instructions make it very easy.

Fortunately, I still had a VCR that could play the tapes so I could record them to digital. You can use your VCR or your original video camera to play the tape while you record it to digital.

Another BIG benefit from this project is that my son, Eddie, and I worked on the project together. Eddie had a terrible auto accident when he was 16 (January 2, 1993) and suffered a massive brain injury. He has significant short term memory challenges but his long term memory is intact. All of the tapes were before his accident so he remembered them. The new video shows the progression of his golf game developing and many things we had forgotten. He and I laughed and had the best time watching old tapes and deciding which segments we wanted to put into our “new movie” to give my brothers and their families.

Once I got the segments I wanted recorded to digital format, I used Camtasia Studio and its editing capability to put them all together in the sequence we wanted, add captions, enhance the audio, insert transitions between segments, etc. in order to create a single MP4 movie. The final movie is about 1.5 hours made up of some 80 different taped segments. It was a big hit with my family and a truly unique gift I was able to give them!

I couldn’t be happier with what this little device does in converting VHS tapes or DVDs to digital movie formats I can use in a creative way.


C.  Showing digital movies on a TV

MICCA Speck Media PlayerItem B above gave me the ability to create digital movies from old tapes but now I needed the ability to give these movies to my family easily. My answer was to put them on a flash drive, , , so the question became, “How do I show an MP4 movie on a flash drive with my big screen TV so we can all see and hear it together?” There are several ways to do this but the simplest approach I found was with another little box from

The device is a Micca Speck 1080p Full-HD Ultra Portable Digital Media Player For USB Drives and SD/SDHC Cards. It costs only $39.95 at and allows you to play a digital movie on any TV from a flash drive or from your SD/SDHC cards you use when filming with a digital camera. Small, easy to use and includes a remote control.

I recommend you purchase an HDMI cable if you want to show your movie on an HD TV, , , even though an old VHS tape probably isn’t in HD the output to your HD TV will be as high quality as the original tape. Newer recordings with the newer cameras will be in HD so the HDMI cable will be worth the purchase if you don’t already have one.

The other neat thing about this little box is that it can hook up to any TV, , , even the old ones. I have a small 6-inch portable TV (vintage 1990 with only the RCA video/audio cable connections) that I used for the initial test and it worked great.

This box is great to watch downloaded YOUTUBE videos or home movies you create with your phone or camera. Just download them to a flash drive or SD/SDHC card and you are ready to go.


I’m always looking for things (gadgets, technology, etc.) that I can use to do things in a creative way. The three items above are a few samples that may be helpful to you, , , if they are, send me a note to and let me know. I would also like to hear of the neat gadgets or products you have found that you think are really interesting or helpful.