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50 years of Hard discs

category international | sci-tech | news report author Wednesday September 13, 2006 22:02author by o as if Report this post to the editors

On this day 50 years ago IBM unveiled its RAMAC (Random Access Memory Accounting Machine). A computer machine which weighed several tonnes & occupied the same space as a bunch of fridge freezers. It was the first hard drive which could be searched & accessed without starting from the "beginning" of the data flow & running to the end, such as one must do with a magnetic tape.

Between 13/9/56 and its withdrawl from the market in the mid 1960's IBM sold over 6,000 of the units each of which could store 5 megabytes of information.

A lot has changed in the last 50 years.

If you don't really know what has changed it's time you learnt what a megabyte is.

Your mobile phone might, but your neighbour's kid's MP3 definitely will have more memory.

And today IBM announced the arrival of a supercomputer which will see the first "petaflop" - one billion operations per second.

within 50 years that will be normal consumer thinking power.

author by Peter Floppublication date Thu Sep 14, 2006 02:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"And today IBM announced the arrival of a supercomputer which will see the first "petaflop" - one billion operations per second."

Not even close with the billion figure, a million times off the mark in fact!

'Petaflop' is one million billion operations per second...

Related Link: http://www.ibm.com/news/us/en/2006/09/2006_09_07.html
author by Terencepublication date Thu Sep 14, 2006 14:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is probably worth reflecting on this milestone further, as the introduction and development of this technology has certainly changed the world in many ways and enabled many things, some good and some bad.

Taking the figure above of 6000 5Mb RAMAC drives shipped, this gives a total of just (6x 1000 x 5Mb = 6x5 x 1Gb =) 30 Gb of storage which was the standard storage about 2 years ago for a single PC. This has now up to 60 Gb approximately which means a 12,000 fold increase. And for not much extra, it is possible to buy for about 200 euros a 300 Gb drive which represents a 60,000 fold increase which really is incredible.

This story seems to be also covered at the URL below, but quoting from it:

Between 1992 and 2003, roughly 1.5 billon drives shipped, capable of holding 41,400 exabytes, according to the "How Much Information?" study from the University of California at Berkeley. An exabyte is a billion gigabytes. Five exabytes would be enough to store all human speech since the dawn of time through 2002, according to the study. More data is stored on hard drives than on optical drives, paper or other media, according to the study.

What disk drive technology has done and the quote above backs it up in terms of technical capacity, is that it has allowed humans to create a whole new set of possible futures. One attractive scenario would obviously be to place much of what has ever been written, spoken and filmed online and make this real treasure trove of humanity available to all. Unfortunately this has not happened chiefly because of copyright laws. When copyright laws were first enacted, one only gained copyright for a few years, but now this has been extended to 70 years and may even now be longer. This means that we can only place freely online anything written before 1936. A good comprise would be to make copyright just 10 or 12 years, and so allow material from approximately 1996/1994 backwards online, making the information far more useful and applicable. Also another problem with stuff 70 years old is that much of it is decaying and getting lost.

Another scenario is that this disk drive technology gives us an ability to document and monitor our environment through photographing and imaging what we have so that we can track changes over the medium to longer term. An grassroots incentive of sorts is already up and running in this regard in the form of the California Coastlines Project http://www.californiacoastline.org/ -The same could easily be done elsewhere especially when we considered that there are now millions of people with digital cameras that would enable them to add to these type of projects. In the scientific sphere remote sensing satellites have been imaging the Earth since the early 70s, although resolutions only increased in the late 80s and early 90s. Again a lot of this data is locked away, but yet we have now the means to make it easily available.

And not to be forgotten are things like blogs which give a voice to many and it is only largely through the fact that disk drive technology has allowed for the cheap availability of vast amounts of storage space that allows for this.

It would seem then that overall this marvellous disk drive technology can and could allow a lot of positive things to happen and to be developed. What blocks us now are more political obstacles than technical obstacles. Indeed technology and science have surged far ahead of human relations and the political structure of society.

Briefly dwelling on the negative aspects of this technology it is clear it enables the sci-fi police state scenario where the phone calls, emails, surfing, credit card and bank histories and other stuff can be held online for the vast majority of people and accessible within seconds to those relative few with such access. The present NSA Echelon system is just such a system.

Related Link: http://news.com.com/The+hard+drive+at+50/2009-1015_3-6112782.html?tag=cd.top
author by o as ifpublication date Thu Sep 14, 2006 18:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

when abroad don't forget to check your "billion" is the same as local numeration, what goes for US dollars goes for Irish pints. You'll be chuffed to order a US pint and get an Imperial pint whereas if used to a half litre you'll put the rest down to froth or "spill space". (saves a fortune on sawdust). At end what is at stake, or to be more precise what is the kernal of the question; is not whether the Rt. Hon. dr o' as if is wrong "again" but the singularly more important for any European :- have we agreed from the Pacific to the Urals exactly what a billion is? .... if we have not - then what the fuck is a petaflop?????

I'll leave it to the commentators guild to do the {linguistic & numeric fine-tuning}

as for the quoted above corporation advert slogan "a memory big enough to record all human speech since the dawn of time"..,

:- when did we start speaking & does "the dawn of time" fit into creationist or evolutionist dialectics & how much before humans speaking was that?

author by and revealed that I didn't know anything at allpublication date Thu Sep 14, 2006 18:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

there is nowhere that a peta could be confused with a billion. Nowhere at all. No local convention. As usual when you show that you don't have a clue, you try to cover it up by showing off a bit more.

Iosaf, every single post that you make is an attempt to show off. You type a few words into google and string a few barely connected facts together as if you knew what you were talking about. You then string it together in an incoherent way to disguise the fact that you just googled. On the rare occassions that anybody bothers to read your drivel, they invariably find that you don't have a clue.

author by o as ifpublication date Thu Sep 14, 2006 18:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

i'm interested. IBM did the data management for the Holocaust. i want to know what petaflop is. I want to know what a mega, giga, kilo, centi and floppy byte is. I want to know not only what IBM can do for the NSA, Echelon and small business entrepeneurs.

But instead of writing another article.
putting it in the same category.
knocking my whole "o as if" regurgitated morning free paper news in Barcelona off the "latest comments" and the "sci-tech" and "international news" categories..............

u just have a go at one of my pseudonoms & tell me I'm looking for attention. Are you a critic? a fan? barstool expert? or contributor?

it's not difficult to write an article. you get'll a buzz. Put it through your petaflops

author by Peter Floppublication date Fri Sep 15, 2006 03:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

when abroad don't forget to check your "billion" is the same as local numeration, what goes for US dollars goes for Irish pints."

When was the last time you ever heard of a billion meaning anything other than 1,000,000,000? GDPs are measured in (these) billions of dollars, as is the earth's population, as is the distance to Pluto in kilometres, as is the number of bytes on your hard drive, as is the frequency of your CPU, etc., etc.

You know, it's easier to admit a mistake than give a poor attempt at covering it up. As stated in the other post, there is no way to confuse a billion (either a British billion [which, of course, hasn't been in use in decades], or the billion the rest of the world uses]) with the number denoted by the prefix 'peta'. Unless you're completely innumerate.

Wouldn't have been easier to say, "Oops, I stand corrected"?

author by o as ifpublication date Fri Sep 15, 2006 18:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm the linguist & wikipedian :- http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billion
But you're correcting me - I can't write I stand corrected because all you've said is "you're wrong". I never said what a petaflop was coz I don't know. I realise many people behind indymedia in Ireland were protifably raised against the background of the Celtic Tiger's focus on IT and related employment sectors. but we all weren't. & those who weren't have watched as socio-economic divisions have developed in the "knowledge based economy" which effects us on many cultural levels.
You didn't use your real name. Thus no IT expert will think less of you if you explain to the common, ordinary, plebian imc reader without privelages what a petaflop is & how it will effect us.
Is there a kiloflop too? Yes. I could link to wikipedia. But can't indymedia give "fun leftwing answers"?

Will petaflop machines further kill job opportunities?
support even more sinister police states? Someone else mentioned Echelon. Why can't that be explained to normal readers?

author by Killer Bytepublication date Fri Sep 15, 2006 18:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I never said what a petaflop was coz I don't know.

You should read your own drivel. If you do you'll see that at the end of your article you say that a petaflop is a billion operations per second. Spend some time researching things and you'll do alright son, you've obviously got the keenness and the time, so put it to good use.

author by WoWoWpublication date Fri Sep 15, 2006 18:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

bil‧lion  /ˈbɪlyən/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[bil-yuhn] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation noun, plural -lions, (as after a numeral) -lion, adjective

ľnoun 1. a cardinal number represented in the U.S. by 1 followed by 9 zeros, and in Great Britain by 1 followed by 12 zeros.

A petaflop is a measure of a computer s processing speed and can be expressed as a thousand trillion floating point operations per second.


author by o as ifpublication date Fri Sep 15, 2006 19:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

for giving us the definition of petaflop and showing us billions mean different things depending on where you go on holidays or do business. Thats why we have communication classes for bankers.
From China & Hong Kong to France to the USA to South America such basic things as "billions" and "zillions" and "trillions" as well as "comma" and point" cause huge mis-understandings.
ranging from three zeroes to six.

Now someone please tell us and me -
Do we need such powerful computers? If computer types are often so insular, closed, rude & ignorant - why ought we assign them the right to create ever more complicated machines the use of they don't even stop to ponder ethically. Whether they work with 50 hard disks as the machine in the article above or have a "petaflop" or joystick attached.

author by show offpublication date Fri Sep 15, 2006 19:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

incidentally, as said above, the UK definition of a billion 1*10^12 is obselete and when we speak of a billion we always mean 1*10^9 = 1000 million.

Another apparent error in iosaf's ramble is that flops are not related to memory - which is storage capacity as against processing speed. A flop is a floating point operation - which is roughly equivalent to the clock speed on a processor with a single dedicated FPU (floating point unit). So, a peta flop is equivalent to a single FPU processor with a clock speed of 1 million GHz (a PetaHz).

Of course it's not architected that way, it must have a whole bunch of parallel FPUs.

author by Complete Floppublication date Fri Sep 15, 2006 19:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Which was Riken's MDGrape-3 on July 26th, not an IBM machine on September 13 as misleadingly claimed by the author. In fact, where is this IBM petaflop computer?

Related Link: http://www.newsfactor.com/news/Japan-Bests-IBM-in-Supercomputer-Stakes/story.xhtml?story_id=1220059R
author by Peter Floppublication date Mon Sep 18, 2006 13:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Whether they work with 50 hard disks as the machine in the article above or have a "petaflop" or joystick attached."

Sorry dude, if I'd known that you were locked every time you posted a message here, then I would've gone along for the laugh. But on the off-chance that you are actually sober, how is it that you seem ever more confused with every post you make? You refer to an article about a computer with 50 hard disks (ROFL), even though the '50' is the number of years that hard disks have been in existence, according to the title of this thread, which you yourself started!

Don't bother talking about petaflops and police states when you [still!] don't know what peta means, or what a flop is.

Use the Net as a learning tool, not to blindly cog some poorly written tripe, then pass it off as something you actually understand.

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