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Have you ever thought about how fast things in the world of technique are developing ? It’s not that long a go that cell phones had a shoulder strap, and TV’s was as thick as it was wide. I remember when the first “flat screens” came on the market. A “Flat Screen” back then ment that the tube had a flat front, no distorting curves. And let’s not forget about storage space. My first hard drive was a staggering 40MB!! And then a while later I got one with 80MB capacity. I thought, MAN, I’m never gonna be able to fill that… yeah right

A while back I was wandering down the memory lane, talking about RAM (Read it here). This time I thought I’d talk about storage space.


My first two computers had no hard-drive, only floppies. The first one to enter our house (a Tandberg EC10) had those 8″ floppies, large and fragile. This was back in the early 80ies. I never had a Commodore64 but I remember my friends had those. We would fire it up, booting the games from our old tapes. Remembering not to touch the joystick as it would disrupt loading the program. Winding back and forth… ahh, those were the days…

The first ones

The first hard-drives were large as a building (well for a boy at 7 they were). And they weren’t exactly something everyone could pop in an buy. They were large, had a massive heating issue and had to be in kept and operated in humidity and temperature controlled environments.

IBM shipped its first hard drive back in 1956. The drive had a staggering 5MB of data at $10,000 a megabyte. The system was as big as two refrigerators and used 50 24-inch platters. in 1980 they release their first 1GB disk. However the common capacity back in the 80ies was about 300MB costing something about $40.000 US and up.

As the technology grew better and more advanced the drives got smaller. In the late 90ies I remember we could get 4GB hard-drive for our desktop computer at home. The size had shrunk to an amazing 3,5″ slot, but it was still very expensive stuff.

When I was as a boy

My dad started working at a computer company where they developed software and “computer aided systems” and I remember walking into one of those hard-drive rooms, with awe in my eyes. It was a noisy room. Whenever the technician needed more computing space he would have to lift out a set of disks from the hard-drive machine and insert some new. Just as you see in the laboratory movies, minus the liquid nitrogen smoke and pschhht sounds. A stack of disks was a tall order, the largest I can remember seeing must have been at least a foot (30 cm).

Back then, when a company bought a computer system they would have to pay for each megabyte way were going to use. Naturally this was to make big money. I remember my dad told me that every computer his company sold, had the same amount of drive-space  no matter how much the customer paid for. Lets say the client bought access to 50MB, the computer would actually have 100MB available. But it was electronically limited from accessing the other 50. So when the client needed more space, they called the computer company, paid another $40.000 (or so) for more space. The technician then came by, opened a panel, threw a switch and voilá.


Today, our disks have become much smaller, in fact a you can get a 32GB flash drive that will fit in your pocket. And it costs almost nothing, compared to back then. Personally I am very happy that the size of computers (and drive space) has shrunk this much. Can you imagine how large the iPhone would be it hadn’t `?


About Thomas

Computer geek from the age of 7, which amounts to 30 years of computer experience. From the early days (when every computer company had their own OS) of DOS, Windows 1.0 through Seven...

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6 thoughts on “Computers Then and Now: Storage Space”

  1. UVAIS says:

    Good Article


  2. Dave Ogilvie says:

    The first computer “Mainframe” I worked on in 1970 was an ICL Hec 1202 which filled a room and had an amazing capacity of 1024 x 40 bit words on a drum. Back up was acheived by placing all data onto punched cards!!!!!
    Any one remembering this machine please contact me 

    1. Ronniedocherty says:

      When starting work on a migration to an IBM360 from a 1440, I remember testing at Babcox and Wilcox in Renfrew who had a brand new 360 which was phasing out an ICL machine which was mainly card based and had vacuum tubes for the console which made some odd sounding noises.  I believe it was an octal based system but I don’t lnow the designation.

  3. Alfee says:

    When I was a boy, I too didn’t think I would ever need that much space beyond a couple of floppy disks. These days, media make up the most storage requirement especially video and editing files. Even if 4 2TB disks now, I’m reaching the limit soon.

  4. Paris Web Designers says:

    3399 dollars for 10mbs OMG

  5. Paris Web Designers says:

    Maybe in 5years in future we will have sim card of 20GBS

Comments are closed.

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