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Slideshow

The evolution of removable storage

From paper tape to data sticks, and more

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Over the years, people have tried to transfer information from one computer to another in a dizzying number of ways. Here’s a look at some of the best, along with others that time forgot.


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Data on tape

The UNIVAC I (1951) started a new trend in data storage: magnetic tape. IBM soon began using reels of magnetic tape (similar to the audio tape of the time) for computer data storage, and the rest of the industry followed suit. Computer tape, usually stored in open reels, generally consisted of thin strips of plastic coated with a magnetically sensitive substance that computers wrote to and read from by means of electronic heads embedded in a special tape drive.

Numerous production computer models (especially mainframes and minicomputers) used open-reel tape as a mass storage medium until the 1970s and 1980s, when designers switched in increasing numbers to tape cartridges.

Photo: IBM


  • Punched paper tape
  • Punch cards
  • Data on tape
  • The first removable disks
  • Tape cartridges
  • Printed on paper
  • The floppy diskette
  • The compact cassette
  • The ROM cartridge
  • The great floppy experiments
  • The optical disc
  • Magneto-optical storage
  • Iomega and the zip drive
  • The floptical disk
  • A removable mess
  • Not just a flash in the pan
  • Removable storage for your rodent?
  • The USB connection
  • The hive mind


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