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Mon, Feb. 6th, 2017, 03:35 pm
On being boggled by technological advances [tech blog b

I had Sinclair Microdrives on my ZX Spectrum. They were better than tape cassette but nothing else -- ~90 kB of slowish, rather unreliable storage.

So I bought an MGT DISCiPLE and an old cheap 5¼" 80-track, DS/DD drive.

780 kB of storage! On demand! Programs loaded in seconds! Even when I upgraded to an ex-demo 128K Spectrum from Curry's, even 128 kB programs loaded in a (literal) flash!

(MGT's firmware strobed the Spectrum's screen border, in homage to loading from tape, so you could see the data streaming into memory.)

That was the first time I remember being excited by the size and speed of my computer's storage.

After an interval on an Amstrad PCW9512 -- in hindsight a bit of an odd choice, really -- I got an Acorn Archimides A310. 1 megabyte of RAM and 20 meg of hard disk!

I was a bit less dazzled because what paid for it was my first job, so I was working on PCs. My work PC was an actual IBM PC-AT, 6MHz I think, with 512 kB of RAM and a 20 MB 5¼" hard disk the size and weight of half a breeze-block. I added a second 15MB drive for SCO Xenix.

But the Archie was about 4x faster than the fastest PC the company sold, an IBM PS/2 Model 70-H21, with a 25MHz 80386DX with cache. So what dazzled me about my Archie wasn't it vast epic tracts of storage -- I had that at work -- it was the blinding speed of the thing. My own 8MHz RISC workstation. BASIC apps that ran as quick as Z80 machine code on a Speccy or PCW.

That would be about 1989.

The next few weren't my own.

There was the first 3½ inch hard drive I saw. So tiny. 120MB in a fag packet. Amazing.

Then I remember the first 330MB hard disk at work -- another full-height 5¼" thing, but SO MUCH SPACE. It also cost a few months' pay, mind. And the custard's server OS ran on PC DOS 3.3, so I had to partition it into 32MB slices -- drives C:, D:, E:, F:, G:, H:, I:, J:, K: and L: with L being a tiddler of about 11MB.

I think everything since has been a bit of a let-down.

Until last year when I bought a used 1TB notebook HD from a chap on FesseBouc here in Brno. (He bought a new lappy and got them to bung an SSD in it), so he sold me a new, unused 1TB drive...

... for thirty quid.

I bought one for my big desktop-replacement laptop which was my main machine for my first year here. That and a 128GB SSD. Later they went in my Mac mini. But they cost real money in 2014.

But thirty quid? I've spent more than that on a curry. For this tiny thing, the size of a dozen business cards stacked up. Not worth keeping for him.

The 20-somethings in the pub that night were unable to understand why I was so boggled by this. A terabyte is a meaningless word to them -- it's a lot, it's 2-3x what their laptops hold, but not vast. No sense of size, I think.

It's equivalent to FIFTY THOUSAND of the first hard disks I ever used, probably a Seagate  ST-4026:

Here's a nice retrospective.

Only the top-end PC-AT came with a hard disk, they were that expensive. (OK, mine was about 4 years old when I inherited it.)

3 and a quarter kilos!

That little £30 1TB thing holds as much as 162,500 kilograms of the first hard disk I personally used.

More than a blue whale, more than 2 space shuttles.

And it's the price of a central London curry and smaller than the battery of my first mobile phone.
That was hard to handle.

Mon, Feb. 6th, 2017 09:18 pm (UTC)

My mind-boggles:
-Technology Research Beta+ disk interface for my speccy (including a dump-the-RAM-to-disk button. v handy for games, which is all I used my spectrum for)
- spending half an hour searching for my phone's 4GB micro-SD card that was knocked to the floor by a badly-timed sneeze. 4GB of data should be too heavy to be moved by a sneeze goddamnit
- getting an alert at work that I'd used up a petabyte of disk because I'd failed to specify a TTL parameter. The alert was that I was approaching the end of my freebie quota.
- realising just how much time it takes to copy a terrabyte of data off spinning rust when I upgraded my 9 year old RAID array at home.

Mon, Feb. 13th, 2017 11:51 pm (UTC)


I thought BetaDisks were mainly in the communist bloc! I never even saw one in a shop when I was looking for a disk interface. But as I was upgrading from ZX microdrives, the MGT offerings' microdrive syntax compatibility was a big win.

I entirely agree about microSD cards being Too Damned Small. Ordinary SD/MMC was about right IMHO.

A petabyte on the freebie eval? O_o 'Kinell... Now you've out-boggled me!