Moving on—the Internet, and storage of data

25.02.2016 |

Episode #7 of the course Brief history of computers by Sudeshna Das


In 1980, Tim Berners-Lee of Switzerland created a database called ENQUIRE. The special feature of ENQUIRE was that each new page in the database had to be connected to some other page in the database. With the help of TCP/IP, he was able to create a “web” of information in the form of a database, which he called the World Wide Web. This is what evolved into the Internet we use today.

By 1996, commercial use of the World Wide Web reached a point where having access to it became a necessity. Websites cropped up everywhere as computers all over the world began getting connected.

In 2002, after a brief period that saw many web-based companies fail, the Web 2.0 emerged. Web 2.0 took away the focus from a few to the manynow users like you and I can create content on the Internet. Wikipedia emerged, and so did Youtube and Facebook.

While all this was going on, a huge change in the amount of data that could be stored was also taking place. The first commercial hard disk drive was created by IBM in 1956. One hard disk could store around five megabytes of data.


Image source: Public domain image

IBM 305 RAMAC computer
Image source:
Public domain image


That’s right. That gigantic monstrosity could store, on average, just one Taylor Swift MP3 song. Incidentally, just last year, a 10TB hard drive was launched by HGST: the Ultrastar Archive Ha10. It weighs 650 grams, slightly less than an iPad 4 does.

From using punched cards in early computers to being able to own a 10TB hard drive, storage has certainly come a long way.

The magnetic tape of the 1920s gave way to the magnetic drum in the 1930s. Hard disks arrived in the 1950s, with the music tape (fancy name for the tape inside old-school cassettes) arriving in the 1960s. Remember floppy disks? You probably won’t know what I’m talking about if you were born after the year 2000, but these disks could store as much memory as the Apollo Guidance Computer needed to work for the moon mission (which, incidentally, was 64 kilobytes, less than your average webpage) and were in vogue in the 1970s. The 1980s saw the rise of the compact disk (CD), followed by DVDs in the 1990s. The SD cards that we use in our phones came to be in the 2000s, as did Blu-ray disks. And of course, now most Internet applications boast “unlimited” storage thanks to cloud computing, which is essentially a set of data storage servers that behave as if they were one unit.

Now that we have finished retracing our footsteps back to modern times, I will take you on a short, quick detour of embedded systems tomorrow.

Until then, have a great day!


Recommended book

“Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet” by Katie Hafner


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