Wednesday, July 1, 2020

memory in Computers from 1.44 disk to 1TB memory cards and more !


In early 1990s, Oriental Insurance was effecting Front Office Computerisation – and Computers were the one many dreaded .. .. earlier they were confined to airconditioned rooms (a luxury in Offices those days); entry was strictly restricted and people had to remove their footwear before entry.   ? Life those days was not all that easy.  In MS DoS mode, Opening directories, creating files, renaming them, saving info – all were considered work of skilled persons and novices would look with wonder. What is done in Excel sheets were earlier performed with great difficulty in Lotus 123.   A couple of elite of us had access to the locker containing Recovery Disks (Boot disks containing programs) which were needed for bringing lives to Computers when something crashed !!

The Genius Sujatha introduced Computer in 1970s  with his writings starting in ‘Sorga theevu’ where the hero Thirukadambi Sundaravaradan Srinivasa Aiyangar  was a Computer Professional.  In 1984 – he wrote a serial ‘Silicon sillu puratchi’ – in Dinamani Kathir – most of which was not comprehensible to me at that time !!

Technology improvement dazzles ….. what sells most now-a-days is ‘memory cards’  - hundreds of manufacturers market thousands of memory cards and devices built to SD standards in a variety of storage capacities, speed classes and three different physical sizes: SD, miniSD, and microSD. SD memory cards are typically used in personal computers, video cameras, digital cameras and other large consumer electronics devices. The microSD and miniSD cards are commonly used in smaller electronic devices like mobile phones and tablet computers.

In the 1980s, when the World wondered how useful and how great storage of information a PC is – the IBM of those days started with 256 KB  achievable through the installation of 64 kB on the motherboard and three 64 kB expansion cards.  IBM sold the first IBM PCs in configurations with 16 or 64 kB of RAM preinstalled.  A couple of versions later came the floppy disk ….the initial ones were unwieldy – then came the modern  3.5” floppy disk introduced by Sony in 1981,  considered such a novelty mainly because it could be carried out in pocket. It could contain vast data of 1.44 mb – hailed as marvel.

In life few of the things grow faster than others and there are few which gets antiquate much faster. When Computers were first used, they were so big in size – then the data media was unwieldy.  The novel 3.5” floppy disk introduced by Sony in 1981   could contain vast data of 1.44 mb – hailed as marvel ! Strange.  In mid 2000s – I was running a 4 page newsletter for SYMA titled ‘Bliss’ – it mostly did not contain any photos but was filled with my writings partly because I was conscious of the fact that once complete, the size should be contained in a floppy disk.  The disks were costlier and often would go waste, if not handled properly. 

The modern generation might laugh at the FD and its size as Computers do not have a port for floppy disks.   With blue ray DVDs, pen drives and external hard disks – you can store the whole data of an office and obviously floppy disks have lost then relevance. Still, Sony had demand of 12 million 3.5” floppy disks in Japan till recently  – presumably to die-hard old schoolers.

For those who are not techno-savvy, floppy disk is a data storage medium that is composed of a disk of thin, flexible ("floppy") magnetic storage medium encased in a square or rectangular plastic shell. Floppy disks are read and written by a floppy disk drive. . Invented by IBM, floppy disks in 8-inch (203 mm), 51⁄4 in (133 mm), and 31⁄2 in (89 mm) formats enjoyed nearly three decades as a popular and ubiquitous form of data storage and exchange, from the mid-1970s to late 90s.

Information was recorded in floppy disks and for transporting them, we had the floppy disk mailer. In fact there was something known as boot disks, which helped Computers with DOS start their operation. These disks could get corrupt easily and the whole information contained therein could be lost. Still it was a owner’s pride and people carried them in shirt pockets to be seen by everybody else to be recognised as someone who is a master technician (somebody could handle computers).  The diskette had a cover or sleeve or envelope, in which there was a circular disk of plastic covered with a magnetic coating inside. The inner disk was referred as a "doughnut"; the disk material called "the media". Probably our EEI policy still refers to that as “External data media”, though this could similarly apply to all other forms of storage of data.

Technically, data got written on the disk by the write head which wrote data track, which was followed by a "tunnel erase" pair of heads to erase data on either side of the data track. Disks functioned by spin at some rotational speed of a read/write head. The head was placed some distance from the center of rotation so the actual radial speed of the media, and therefore the density of flux changes or bits per radial inch of the media, varied. Corruption of data occurred when the tracks were too close together.

A memory card or memory cartridge is an electronic data storage device used for storing digital information, typically using flash memory.  The basis for memory card technology is flash memory.   It was invented by Fujio Masuoka at Toshiba in 1980,  and commercialized by Toshiba in 1987.   Flash memory is an electronic (solid-state) non-volatile computer memory storage medium that can be electrically erased and reprogrammed. The two main types of flash memory are named after the NAND and NOR logic gates.  Secure Digital, officially abbreviated as SD, is a proprietary non-volatile memory card format developed by the SD Card Association (SDA) for use in portable devices.

The standard was introduced in Aug 1999 by joint efforts between SanDisk, Panasonic (Matsushita Electric) and Toshiba as an improvement over Multi Media Cards (MMC), and has become the industry standard. The three companies formed SD-3C, LLC, a company that licenses and enforces intellectual property rights associated with SD memory cards and SD host and ancillary products.

My first camera came with a 16MB SD card – now phones have 64 GB mini cards ! – Digital and DSLR cameras generally have 32 or 64 GB cards .. .. this post is about the biggest capacity micro SD card ever sold -  SanDisk’s 1TB  card! Available from 2019. Amazon India  has a product listing, though it’s currently unavailable in the US.  Amazon offers it in India for Rs.32619/-  Owning the first-ever 1TB microSD card seems cool. But if that distinction isn’t as important to you as saving money is, there are a few smaller options that are at their best prices yet.  Even 2 TB cards seemingly have been made but presumably are not available online.

For those (like me) who do not Computers much – a bit is a binary digit, the smallest increment of data on a computer. A bit can hold only one of two values: 0 or 1, corresponding to the electrical values of off or on, respectively. Because bits are so small, you rarely work with information one bit at a time. Bits are usually assembled into a group of eight to form a byte. A byte contains enough information to store a single ASCII character, like "h".

A kilobyte (KB) is 1,024 bytes, not one thousand bytes as might be expected, because computers use binary (base two) math, instead of a decimal (base ten) system. Computer storage and memory is often measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB). A medium-sized novel contains about 1 MB of information. 1 MB is 1,024 kilobytes, or 1,048,576 (1024x1024) bytes, not one million bytes. Similarly, one 1 GB is 1,024 MB, or 1,073,741,824 (1024x1024x1024) bytes. A terabyte (TB) is 1,024 GB; 1 TB is about the same amount of information as all of the books in a large library, or roughly 1,610 CDs worth of data.   There is more too a  petabyte,  exabyte (EB),  zettabyte (ZB) and a yottabyte (YB).

Mind boggling to say the least !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
22.6.2020.

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