Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sourisseau News: 99 Notre Dame, the Birthplace of the Magnetic Disk Drive

How many people knew that the hard drive was invented in Downtown San Jose about a block away from where the San Pedro Square Market sits today? Check out the great 2-minute video below for a quick history lesson on how IBM developed RAMAC in San Jose, the first system for storing data on magnetic disks.

99 Notre Dame, the birthplace of the magnetic disk drive from WMS media Inc. on Vimeo.

"Today's iPod-toting hipsters have no idea how much they owe to an unremarkable little building in downtown San Jose. It was there, at 99 Notre Dame Ave., nearly 50 years ago, that a small band of IBM engineers developed the RAMAC, the first system for storing data on magnetic disks.

The RAMAC was a big success for IBM. Big Blue made more than 1,000 of the machines over a five-year period, helping establish the company's dominance in mainframe computing. Today, just a few of the original RAMACs are known to exist. One sits outside Hoagland's office on the third floor of the engineering building at Santa Clara University.

The RAMAC's specifications are laughable by today's standards. Some hard drives are as small as a quarter and can store 100 billion bits of data per square inch, 50 million times that of the RAMAC. Hitachi, for example, recently announced the development of "Mikey,'' a one-inch hard drive weighing just 14 grams and able to hold up to 10 gigabytes of data.

The company is also testing a new method of aligning data bits on hard disks vertically instead of horizontally. The new orientation could allow companies to increase hard drive storage capacity tenfold, Munce said. "I think things like micro-drives will change the way we consume digital entertainment,'' he said. Hoagland's goal is to preserve the legacy of the hard-disk innovation in San Jose. As director of the Magnetic Disk Heritage Center, he has been pushing to create a museum at 99 Notre Dame Ave.

He may get his wish. The San Jose City Council recently passed a resolution promising to begin discussions around the idea. And a couple of city council members are due at tonight's ceremony, organized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. "My dream,'' Hoagland said, "is if you think of the RAMAC, you think of Rey Johnson and you think of 99 Notre Dame Ave."

By Michael Bazeley
San Jose Mercury News

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