Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Remembering RAMAC

Filed under
Hardware

Today's iPod-toting hipsters have no idea how much they owe to an unremarkable little building in downtown San Jose.

It was there, at 99 Notre Dame Ave., nearly 50 years ago, that a small band of IBM engineers developed the RAMAC, the first system for storing data on magnetic disks. The refrigerator-size beast was a technological breakthrough, and it's considered by most to be the forerunner of today's hard drives.

The invention of this bulky assembly of 50 spinning platters is being honored tonight by a worldwide engineering association as a ``milestone moment'' in engineering. It's an honor that could further help efforts to create a museum honoring the innovation performed at the former IBM lab.

``This recognition moves it from being viewed as a piece of machinery to a revolutionary computer system,'' said Al Hoagland, director of the Institute for Information Storage Technology and a professor of electrical engineering at Santa Clara University.

In computing circles, the RAMAC's reputation is already well-established.

Before the advent of magnetic disk storage, computers stored their information on rolls of magnetic tape or coded punch cards. Retrieving information could take hours or days. And banks and other companies often processed their data just once a week.

``It was a radical innovation,'' said Hoagland, who worked for IBM for 28 years. Transactions that might take days to process before could now be accomplished in minutes, Hoagland said.

Today, just a few of the original RAMACs are known to exist. One sits outside Hoagland's office on the third floor of the engineering building at Santa Clara University. On loan from IBM, the machine is being restored by students.

Hoagland hopes to have a fully functional RAMAC by next year, in time for the 50th anniversary of its unveiling by IBM.

Full Article.

More in Tux Machines

And now for some good news... How open source triumphed over Microsoft Office in Italy

Microsoft Office may have a global monopoly, but one Italian region rejected it flat out. But, why? In the stunningly beautiful Italian region of Umbria, you'll feel more at home running open source software, rather than the clunky and expensive Microsoft Office suite. Read more

Red Hat, Chilean government hold talks on open source initiative

The head of Chilean regulator Pedro Huichalaf agreed to pass information regarding the benefits of open source software to the ministerial committee for digital development Read more

IT teams are choosing open source - but not just for the cost savings

IT decision makers are increasingly turning to open source over proprietary software because they believe it offers them better business continuity and control Read more

Patent Troll Kills Open Source Project On Speeding Up The Computation Of Erasure Codes

Via James Bessen, we learn of how a patent trolling operation by StreamScale has resulted in an open source project completely shutting down, despite the fact that the patent in question (US Patent 8,683,296 for an "Accelerated erasure coding system and method") is almost certainly ineligible for patent protection as an abstract idea, following the Supreme Court's Alice ruling and plenty of prior art. Erasure codes are used regularly today in cloud computing data storage and are considered to be rather important. Not surprisingly, companies and lawyers are starting to pop out of the woodwork to claim patents on key pieces. I won't pretend to understand the fundamental details of erasure codes, but the link above provides all the details. It goes through the specific claims in the patents, breaking down what they actually say (basically an erasure code on a computer using SIMD instructions), and how that's clearly an abstract idea and thus not patent-eligible. Read more