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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

We have come a long way, Mr. Backup

We really have come a long, long way.
I still remember the times when I had to deal with punched cards (created on an IBM 305), nicely divided by the color (each color was for another type of data).
First we filled a truck with them and drove them to the next IBM data center.
Then we had to unload them, carry them again to a bunch of punch card readers (IBM 711).
It was not finished here, because then you had to feed the sorting machines and readers with them.
Depending on the job this could have lasted for hours - until the big IBM mainframe (360 resp. 370 series) was fed enough to do its calculations.
And, of course, at the end of the job we had to carry them again back to the truck.
As time passed things have progressed forwards.
The cards were not transported anymore, but loaded (through punch card readers) onto magnetic tapes and these were fed to the computers.
Some time later it was possible to store the data directly onto a tape.
These were followed by magnetic discs - not in the gigabyte range but kilobyte and megabytes.
Well, now we are able to store the content of a full truck of punched cards in a small USB stick.
If these fall on the ground, your data is not damaged or gone which sometimes was the case in the good old times.
Now, we also have systems which do all the backup jobs automatically by a schedule - set up with a few keyboard strokes and a few mouse clicks, without carrying tons of material.
Nevertheless, I still miss the thousands of lights flickering on the operator console of my good old IBM /360-50 mainframe and the sound of the printers printing the salary sheets of thousands of employees. We even managed to write programs to let these printers play music - for example "Stars and stripes".
Its a long time ago - but unforgettable.

If you want to read more about Mr. Backup you can find a very good article on its history at The History of Backup.
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