Feeds

What ever happened to storing pics with electron cannons?

Blue Blue's digital photo beam

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Electron cannon!

IBM's Almaden laboratory in Silicon Valley had previously worked on system using a similar photo-storage concept for the CIA during the 1950s to store the agency's sizable library of microfilm documents. IBM peddled the idea to the Atomic Energy folk and they liked it. IBM was offered a $2.1m contract for two machines: one at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab and the other at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Later, two more systems were ordered for the National Security Agency and one for the Los Alamos National Lab.

The IBM 1360 had four main units: the data controller, the photo-digital recorder, the photo-digital reader, and the cell file and control. With more cell file units, a system could be expanded to store about two trillion bits of data.

Photo-Digital Recorder unit

Cell File and Control unit

Inside the knickknack-cabinet-looking cell file and control unit was stored data written on small pieces of high-resolution photographic film called "chips." About five million bits (~0.59MB) could be burned into a single chip, each one measuring 1.3 x 2.7 inches (3cm x 6.86cm).

Data was recorded on the chips using a concentrated beam of electrons shot from tungsten filaments in the turret of the Photo-Digital Storage system's internal electron gun. Individual blank chips were positioned in a vacuum chamber, then data sent from a host computer was recorded by sweeps of the beam across the chip surface. Dark and clear spots scored on the chip corresponded with binary ones and zeros. Each chip was divided into 32 frames containing 300 lines with 300 bits per line. The 1360 would record data one frame at a time at a rate of about a half million bits per second.

The electron beam-painted chips would then be developed inside the machine using developer, stop, and fix chemicals stored in the recorder unit. After processing, the chips were packed into protective plastic "cells," (which are about the size of a pack of cigarettes) and sent to the storage unit's cabinets by way of a pneumatic blower system made for two-way travel.

Inside the cabinet

Host in the cell

When data was read, it was sucked from its cabinet into a reader station. A robo-arm then held the cell in front of a scanner which would process the bits.

Security for virtualized datacentres

Next page: Electron cannon!

More from The Register

next story
It's Big, it's Blue... it's simply FABLESS! IBM's chip-free future
Or why the reversal of globalisation ain't gonna 'appen
'Hmm, why CAN'T I run a water pipe through that rack of media servers?'
Leaving Las Vegas for Armenia kludging and Dubai dune bashing
Bitcasa bins $10-a-month Infinite storage offer
Firm cites 'low demand' plus 'abusers'
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
CAGE MATCH: Microsoft, Dell open co-located bit barns in Oz
Whole new species of XaaS spawning in the antipodes
Microsoft and Dell’s cloud in a box: Instant Azure for the data centre
A less painful way to run Microsoft’s private cloud
AWS pulls desktop-as-a-service from the PC
Support for PCoIP protocol means zero clients can run cloudy desktops
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.