Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sometimes bigger AND smaller is better

DEC RL01 disk drive
Cleaning out the garage the other day, I unearthed a Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) RL01 disk. I wrote the list of contents on the label in 1981 and it made me think about how far we've come since then relative to disk/flash memory storage.

This 12-inch, single platter storage disk holds 5.2 megabytes of data. To provide some perspective, my 16 gigabyte iPod Nano, which is the size of a computer chip (including the hi-res screen), holds approximately 3,150 times more data than the RL01.

DEC RL01 disk with 5.2 megabyte capacity

iPod Nano with 16 gigabyte capacity


  1. A data storage device is a data storage device. Problem is the human brain hasn't changed in millions of years so we can put all that ever so important information on a disk, floppy or thumb drive and tomorrow it is forgotten. Thank god I saved it though.

  2. Carl Johansen would state that during another time in the beginning of storing information I had the opportunity to work at RCA, where we build the first computor that would predict an election The 501 memory was designed around ferrite cores and each core had a wire around the size of your hair pulled through each core.
    We had four wires in all, a digit,a sense, read and write that was wound through each memory core in planes 64 x 64 and then stacked and soldered together. I also had a hand in working with Nasa to put the first man to the moon. All of the computor functions were fed into these ferrite cores under the launch pad and burnt up at take off.

    Yes, man has indeed come a long way with the building of computors, since some of the very first ones I used during my Navy Days on board the USS DD Forest B. Royal were all designed around syncroes and servos and we used a wheatstone bridge to calibrate the basic gun fire commands done during firing the guns and radar systems.

  3. Remington Rand III, EsquireJanuary 9, 2012 at 6:23 PM

    Does anyone remember the Univac ENIAC computer. One of the 46 or so sold in 1952 accurately predicted the 1952 election. If I am not mistaken, Remington Rand made the Univac. While most of the East Coast mainstream media was predicting a win for Adlai E. Stevenson, that computer accurately predicted that Dwight David Eisenhower would win by a landslide. And, guess what, he did.

    My computer was more first than yours, or rather I got of the facts right.

  4. To: Mr. Rand

    As far as I can remember, the FIRST RCA computer was the Bizmac. It was made far after the 1952 election in 1956 so I doubt that it was the first computer to predict an election. The Bizmac had 25,000 vacuum tubes and as one of the pioneers of computers was quite sophisicated for its day.

    The 501 was basically a transistor chip. I am not sure when it came out, but it was after the Bizmac although RCA was doing research and development on it before the Bizmac came out.

    I think Mr. Johansen's point, if I dare guess, was that we have come an awful long way with computers. He is right if that was his point, but his facts were, as usual, a bit off.

  5. Carl Johansen would state that nothing like a little challenge early in the morning.

    The RCA Bismac 501[1952] was a commercial computor that was all transistors and it is so listed as such in the history of the computor. Unlike the Rand Univac that originally was all tubes[crystal triodes] [1946] The later vesion was designed for the military, but it was still not completly all transistors.

    Now one could debate which one, was the first to predict an election depended upon the technology of its day. That would be an interesting discussion to say the least.

    A little insite to when the word computor was first used goes back to 1613, but a gentleman by the name of Charles Babbage was one of the first to actually begin the process of what we all call a computor today.

  6. Carl Johansen would state that in fact the first presidendial election was predicted by Univac during the 1952 elections.
    I was incorrect in my post in which company produced the first computor to do so.

    Having worked a number of years at RCA one might have been brainwashed a little, as to some of its credits. I an still looking for some information we were given in the above accomplishments of the RCA 501 computor. I find it rather lacking in the world of computor information.

    The point from the beginning of this dialog was to show how far the computor has really come in todays world.

    When one looks back into history where some one learned how to store information and retreive it fast is an amazing feat all by itelf.

    As I indicated above my first experience with
    computors started with vaccumm tubes, then transistors and then Ferrite Cores. It was during my times at RCA that the development of the ferrite core really increased the storage of memory that I recall the best. We manufactured these cores for other well known companies at that time, that they used in the computors they built
    I love a challenge, and to think it is so early in the morning

  7. Carl Johansen would state the following in regards to my comments above .

    The RCA 501 was the first computor to use a Ferrite Core memory driven by transistors that predicted an election in record time.

    More research to come

  8. Just a little insight into the word "computer", not to be confused with "computor". The first use, in the English language was in 1613. It is my sincere hope that readers of this blog understand that 1)it may not have been the first use of the word 2) that it did not mean a mechanical or electronic computer. It did mean a person who computed who was called a computer just as one who runs is called a runner. It did not apply to this discussion which I believe is the electronic or mechanical computer. It did not seem clear in the refrenced post and I wanted to be clear about it.

    The first known written use of the computer, refering to something electronic was in 1897. I do not know who used the word. I just want to be a little clearer than the subject poster. It is my hope that it was.

    As for Babbage, just to let the blog readers know, he was paid 17,000 pounds to develop a machine that would compute. Sometime in the 1840s he came up with two machines. The first had 24,000 parts and the second 8,000. He did not call it a computer, but rather an analytical engine. For sure, it was what really started the process according to just about everyone.

    To me, the process started over 40,000 years ago in caves. If we did not record, then we would not have advanced the human race to where it is.

  9. Mr. Johansen,

    You talk about a challange, try getting the clarity in what you write up to basic writing integrity. Another poster asked what you meant on another earlier post. I as he, did not know what you meant.

  10. Gregory, I am embarrassed to have the same name as you. Have you ever been a meeting manager? Have you ever worked in meeting management under the old Total Quality Management programs of just a few years back? The first rule of agreement during brain storming or other group work of varying levels of personnel experience is: Wait for it Gregory....correct spelling is not mandatory....and to relax the folks who are involved in offering their one is chastised for writing integrity. You would be amazed at how many great ideas coming from some very great people that just don't get the writing integrity thing that you appear to be demanding. Relax Gregory. You know what Carl is saying..must we all meet your standard to blog? Methinks not. If you actually read Carl's story, it is amazing what this man has seen in his life experiences. I was going to chime in about the first computer developed for the Army Artillery, by a gentleman who worked for Raytheon....FADAC...amazing little device, saved us hours of computations with the old firing sticks...but...I am afraid that I might say the word 'nuclear' incorrectly and you would be all over me. The point is, we should be able to read our thoughts and ideas and perhaps argue the substance more than the number of comma's or proper grammer. Sounds very snobby Gregory. I am gonna see how much it costs to change my As far as Randy's thread on his old storage devices, those of us with military time have probably seen more unique changes in the capability of the computer and the computor. Both had to work together to get the job done. Most of the time we were the bench testers for these new fangled electronic gizmo's. Just sayin...

  11. Oh Randy is probably gonna give me a shame on you for breaking the great line of ideas we had going here on old computer stuff, however, I cannot believe none of my old, you can't get over it friends, have not printed one single word on the Courts decision today as reported by the CC Times. OMG I can't remember all those phony anon names that kept driving home the LEGAL issues of MEJ's contract and the illegal meeting and the law suit and the.....OK. Enough. Anyone got a good line of credit for one heck of a pending lawsuit against the school committee? Gasping for air in the thick dark atmosphere of what everyone thought........ was over. Sorry Randy... I could not stop this old IBM keyboard from clicking these words....

  12. It is worth $2,000,000.00 at least just to get her out of Sandwich. Whatever happened to the Audit of the schools. Oh, I'll just look under one of the Selectmens' rugs.


  13. Anon, I didn't realize one of our selectmen wore a toupee. It sure wasn't Randy! I am not sure if you are sincere considering your first sentence....oh hum, I guess the Anon's are still looking for a bonfire. Thanks Randy...I got it out of my system. Click, click, dat dat dot dat..... :)

  14. I'm moving this discussion about the former superintendent's lawsuit to a new post. Don't post anything further here on that subject.


  15. Randy,

    I hope the computer discussion continues for a bit. I have a question for the gurus: I have a lot of old 3.5" floppy disks (even though they're in solid plastic, I still called them "floppy") can these be recycled? What kind of plastic did they use to make them?

    I thought I was the only one who would remember those things like those "cradle" 300 baud modems where you placed the black hand piece on the two "cups" and it squeaked back and forth for forever to send a text only message or, if you had all day, a "gopher" search.

    Thanks for any reply to my questions.

  16. I actually used these things back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Frankly computers were much more interesting and exciting back then. You had to know HW and SW internals much more then than now.

    From the PDP-11/RL01, I migrated to a DEC VAX system at one company and to a SGI IRIS 4D/80GT UNIX system at another. All good stuff, and significant upgrades as well. I never thought I'd see DEC, the second largest computer company in the world behind IBM in the early 1980s, fail.


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